A Lot Riding on Amazon Union Vote

March 31, 2021


Voting closed on Monday by the 6,000 Amazon workers in Bessemer City, Alabama. The stakes are high with a potential first in the US, a unionized Amazon facility. The counting began on Tuesday and the results could be finalized by the end of this week or sometime next week.

If the final vote favors a union it will likely mean higher costs for Amazon in the form of wages and other benefits. Higher wages would also mean higher costs to get packages to shoppers’ doorsteps, which may prompt Amazon to raise prices, says Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Not only are other Amazon employees elsewhere in the US waiting anxiously for the final results but other warehousing workers are as well. COVID-19 concerns and the growth of e-commerce could drive more organized efforts in the US.

During 2020, warehouse workers accused a number of employers of unsafe conditions of not enforcing the wearing of masks, inadequate amounts of hand sanitizer and lack of social distancing putting a number of workers at risk of COVID-19 and more.

A Wall Street Journal investigation found that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agencies received 72% more complaints from February 2020 through January 2021 than in the year-earlier 12 months, agency data show. That came to nearly 93,000 complaints, about 57,000 of them related to the coronavirus.

However, the Wall Street Journal found that instead of thoroughly investigating complaints of unsafe practices at workplaces, the federal agency and state OSHA agencies it oversees often took limited steps, leaving workers more vulnerable to workplace outbreaks.

One example provided in the article is that of UPS. Eight complaints by the end of March 2020 about UPS’ Worldport distribution hub in Louisville. Some alleged a lack of sanitizer, masks or effective distancing in places including shuttle buses. The Kentucky Labor Cabinet didn’t take immediate action on the complaints, according to information provided by Cabinet officials. By mid-April, two employees had died of Covid-19. The spokeswoman said the March complaints weren’t formal OSHA complaints because they had been filed to the Labor Cabinet’s “KYSafer” portal, a hotline set up in the pandemic.

Meanwhile, UPS didn’t report either death as a work-related fatality saying that “There is no way to know where someone was actually infected.”

The rise in e-commerce is also creating workplace conditions that could put workers at risk. E-commerce is about speed and fulfilling the items is part of that speed. As such some workers say they work by quotas, long hours and limited lunch breaks.

It’s possible that we may see a union revival here in the US. In 2020, the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions, was 10.8%, up by 0.5% from 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 


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Connect with Spend Management Experts on TwitterLinkedIn, and the Spend Management Experts blog.

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A Lot Riding on Amazon Union Vote

March 31, 2021


Voting closed on Monday by the 6,000 Amazon workers in Bessemer City, Alabama. The stakes are high with a potential first in the US, a unionized Amazon facility. The counting began on Tuesday and the results could be finalized by the end of this week or sometime next week. If the final vote favors a union it will likely mean higher costs for Amazon in the form of wages and other benefits. Higher wages would also mean higher costs to get packages to shoppers’ doorsteps, which may prompt Amazon to raise prices, says Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Not only are other Amazon employees elsewhere in the US waiting anxiously for the final results but other warehousing workers are as well. COVID-19 concerns and the growth of e-commerce could drive more organized efforts in the US. During 2020, warehouse workers accused a number of employers of unsafe conditions of not enforcing the wearing of masks, inadequate amounts of hand sanitizer and lack of social distancing putting a number of workers at risk of COVID-19 and more. A Wall Street Journal investigation found that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agencies received 72% more complaints from February 2020 through January 2021 than in the year-earlier 12 months, agency data show. That came to nearly 93,000 complaints, about 57,000 of them related to the coronavirus. However, the Wall Street Journal found that instead of thoroughly investigating complaints of unsafe practices at workplaces, the federal agency and state OSHA agencies it oversees often took limited steps, leaving workers more vulnerable to workplace outbreaks. One example provided in the article is that of UPS. Eight complaints by the end of March 2020 about UPS’ Worldport distribution hub in Louisville. Some alleged a lack of sanitizer, masks or effective distancing in places including shuttle buses. The Kentucky Labor Cabinet didn’t take immediate action on the complaints, according to information provided by Cabinet officials. By mid-April, two employees had died of Covid-19. The spokeswoman said the March complaints weren’t formal OSHA complaints because they had been filed to the Labor Cabinet’s “KYSafer” portal, a hotline set up in the pandemic. Meanwhile, UPS didn’t report either death as a work-related fatality saying that “There is no way to know where someone was actually infected.” The rise in e-commerce is also creating workplace conditions that could put workers at risk. E-commerce is about speed and fulfilling the items is part of that speed. As such some workers say they work by quotas, long hours and limited lunch breaks. It’s possible that we may see a union revival here in the US. In 2020, the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions, was 10.8%, up by 0.5% from 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  


ABOUT SPEND MANAGEMENT EXPERTS Spend Management Experts provides strategic guidance to optimize your supply chain. Using cost modeling technology and market intelligence, we help companies with their transportation, distribution and fulfillment spend. Often large shippers can reduce their spend across the supply chain by 20% or more. We specialize in reducing distribution costs, increasing efficiencies, dynamic reporting, greater budgeting and forecasting accuracy and optimizing supply chain execution. We leverage our proprietary models to identify savings and build negotiation strategies based on data and business cases. As industry experts, our fresh approach provides clients with straightforward details on exactly how savings are derived. Spend Management Experts is your competitive edge, delivered. Connect with Spend Management Experts on TwitterLinkedIn, and the Spend Management Experts blog.

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