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Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum: ‘Don’t Call Yourself Pro-Union If You Turn A Blind Eye To Amazon’

Published Sunday, December 16, 2018
by Joe Maniscalco/
Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum: ‘Don’t Call Yourself Pro-Union If You Turn A Blind Eye To Amazon’

(NEW YORK CITY) – On-line Retail Giant has a notorious record of “mistreating and dehumanizing workers” in some 16 countries around the globe - and if you turn a blind eye to it, you should forget about calling yourself Pro-Labor

That’s the scathing message that the head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) delivered last week ahead of City Council hearings on the $3 billion deal to construct a new Amazon headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. 

“Nobody can call themselves ‘Progressive’ or ‘Pro-Worker’ or ‘Pro-Union’ if they accept or ignore Amazon’s behavior,” RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum told a large contingent of staunch Amazon critics assembled on the steps of City Hall. 

The head of the 60,000-plus Member RWDSU said Amazon is well-documented as “one of the most Anti-Worker, Anti-Union companies in the United States and around the world - controlled by the planet’s wealthiest person (Jeff Bezos).”

“Amazon Workers in Germany, in Italy and in Spain, have gone on Strike and demonstrated,” Appelbaum said. “In Great Britain, they’ve ‘all been speaking out, striking and demonstrating.’  Amazon’s business model ‘is based on receiving’ tax payer subsidies, ‘paying little or no’ taxes, ‘and mistreating and dehumanizing its Workers.’  ‘And that is unacceptable.’”

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio rocked the Empire State last month when they announced a blockbuster deal worth $3 billion in taxpayer subsidies had been struck to bring Amazon’s “HQ2” to the Big Apple

Two weeks ago, Appelbaum was in London meeting with a global alliance of Labor Unions and Worker Advocates born out of their collective “outrage at how Amazon lowered even low standards on the treatment of Workers.”

“We were told by the Union in Great Britain that in the last three years, in England alone, there have been over (600) ambulance calls to Amazon facilities.  People have died, miscarriages, taken away because of exhaustion.  ‘The richest man in the world can do better.’  ‘And it’s incumbent on our elected officials to say, if you want to be here, you must do better.’  ‘There is no excuse for exempting Amazon,” he said.

The Amazon HQ2 deal is further raising hackles because, like other mega-developments before it that politicos have sought to realize without too much public fuss - is avoiding the Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure - a process, which, obsessively gives community stakeholders greater input on proposed developments. 

To get its hands on the $3 billion in public subsidies Cuomo and de Blasio have offered up to corporate boss Jeff Bezos, Amazon has promised to conjure up anywhere between 25,000 to 40,000 new jobs over the next 15 years. 

Appelbaum’s opposition to the Amazon HQ puts him at odds with the New York City Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC), which supports the development plan. 

In November, BCTC President Gary LaBarbera issued a statement saying: “We look forward to working closely with Amazon and the community to ensure that the project includes good Middle Class construction jobs with benefits and high quality permanent jobs.”

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