After Amazon workers at a massive warehouse on Staten Island won a shattered union victory last month, it turned union leaders into celebrities, sent shockwaves through the wider labor movement and prompted politicians across the country to rally behind Amazon workers. Now it seems to have had repercussions within Amazon’s management ranks as well.
On Thursday, Amazon informed more than half a dozen senior executives involved with the Staten Island warehouse that they were being fired, according to four current and former knowledgeable employees who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
The layoffs, which occurred outside of the company’s typical appraisal cycle, were seen by the managers and other people working at the facility as a response to the Amazon Labor Union victory, three of the people said. Warehouse workers voted by a wide margin to form the company’s first union in the United States, in one of the biggest organized labor victories in at least a generation.
News of the shake-up spread through the warehouse on Thursday. Many of the managers were responsible for implementing the company’s response to the union action. Several were veterans of the company, with more than six years of experience, according to their LinkedIn profiles.
Workers who supported the union complained that the company’s health and safety protocols were too lax, especially as they related to Covid and RSI, and that the company was pushing them too hard to meet performance goals, often at the cost of adequate breaks. . Many also said warehouse wages, which start at more than $18 an hour for full-time workers, were too low to live on in New York City.
Read more about the Amazon Labor Union
An Amazon spokeswoman said the company made the management changes after spending several weeks evaluating aspects of the “operations and leadership” at JFK8, the company’s name for the warehouse. “Part of our culture at Amazon is to continuously improve, and we feel it’s important to take the time to assess whether we’re doing the best we could be for our team,” said Kelly Nantel, the spokeswoman.
The managers were told they were being fired as part of an “organizational change,” two people said. One of the people said that some managers were high achievers who recently received positive reviews.
The Staten Island facility is Amazon’s only fulfillment center in New York City, and for a year, current and former employees of the facility organized to form a fledgling, independent union.
The company is challenging the election, saying the union’s unconventional tactics were coercive and the National Labor Relations Board biased in favor of the union. And the union is working to maintain pressure on Amazon so that it will negotiate a contract.
Christian Smalls, the chairman of the Amazon Labor Union, testified Thursday before a US Senate committee investigating whether companies that violate labor laws should be denied federal contracts. Mr. Smalls later attended a White House meeting with other union organizers in which he directly asked President Biden to pressure Amazon to recognize his union.
A White House spokeswoman said it was up to the National Labor Relations Board to certify the results of the recent election, but confirmed that Mr. Biden has long championed collective bargaining and workers’ rights to associate.
Amazon has said it has invested $300 million in security projects in 2021 alone and will provide above-minimum wages with solid benefits such as health care to full-time workers once they join the company.
Company officials and consultants held more than 20 mandatory meetings a day with workers in the run-up to the election, trying to convince workers not to support the union. The officials emphasized the amount of money the union would take from them and emphasized the uncertainty of collective bargaining, which they say could make workers worse off.
Labor experts say such claims could be misleading, as it is highly unusual for workers to see their compensation fall as a result of the unions’ negotiation process.
This is a story in development. Come back for updates.
Grace Ashford contributed to reporting and Sheelagh McNeill contributed to research.