Multi-Million-Dollar ‘Union Avoidance’ Industry Faces New Scrutiny - As An Amazon Distribution Center Considers Unionizing, ‘The Spotlight Is Back On Employer Efforts To Dissuade Workers From Organizing’
Workers Unionizing with the Retail Workers and Wholesale Distribution Union (RWDSU) at an Amazon Distribution Center in Bessemer, Alabama, have been met with a range of tactics to dissuade them from voting for a Union - including frequent text messages, paid Social Media advertisements, and “classes” intended to warn them against Unionization.
The tactics utilized by Amazon aren’t unusual.
In 2017, Boeing took out a Super Bowl ad to combat an Employee Union effort in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Governor of Tennessee led “Captive Audience” Meetings at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga Facility in 2019.
According to Celine McDaniels, who serves as Director of Government Affairs and Labor Counsel for the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), employers illegally fire Union Organizers in at least a fifth of all Union Elections.
“This is a Worker, or multiple Workers, actually losing their job because they express support for the Union,” McDaniels says. “When you look at larger employers, all of this sometimes gets worse.”
Hourly waged Workers in distribution centers and factories aren’t the only ones to face sophisticated Anti-Union Campaigns.
The University of Pittsburgh, a publicly funded, “state related” university, has spent more than $2 million dollars on the Philadelphia-based Law Firm, Ballard Spahr, for legal services in their multi-year fight against the United Steelworkers (USW).
The USW is currently organizing University of Pittsburgh Graduate Assistants and Faculty.
Graduate Assistants narrowly lost an election in April of 2019, but the results were overturned by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board due to “unfair practices,” including information disseminated by the university deemed a “substantial departure from the truth.”
Kim Garrett, a Graduate Organizer and third-year Doctoral Student in the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, says the university administration’s campaign escalated as the election approached, totaling 50 e-mails in the month prior to the election with “various bits of misinformation.”
“We got so many e-mails in the lead up to the election and it was really unclear where the e-mails were coming from,” Garrett says. “For someone (not as involved) in the Organizing Committee or signed up for our specific e-mail list, these e-mails (seemed like) they could have come from either side.”
The university also encouraged Employees to attend management-run “town halls” to get information about Unionization.
During one town hall, Garrett says a university administrator implied the USW was mostly men and misogynists, and that they “work in factories'' and weren’t appropriate for a university.
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