Sanders, Warren Are Going After Amazon Over ‘Anti-Union Behavior’

Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts are looking into reports of “anti-union” activities and illegal labor practices by Amazon, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

The senators sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos over a leaked 45-minute video distributed to managers at Whole Foods, owned by Amazon, over the problems a unionized workforce may bring to the grocery chain. Sanders, an Independent, and Warren, a Democrat, also asked Bezos to respond to allegations that Amazon management retaliated against workers who complained about the working conditions and potential labor violations.

Jeff Bezos, president and CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, speaks at the Economic Club of Washington D.C.’s “Milestone Celebration Dinner” in Washington, U.S., Sept. 13, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“We write to express our alarm at recent reports that your company is distributing anti-union materials to Whole Foods managers that directs and encourages potentially illegal interference with the rights of thousands of workers,” Sanders and Warren wrote according to WaPo. “It is important to recognize that workers’ rights do not stop at the minimum wage, and raising the pay of your lowest-paid workers, while important, does not give you a free pass to engage in potentially illegal anti-union behavior.”

Amazon asserts that the company has not broken any labor laws.

“We respect the individual rights of associates to join a union or to choose otherwise,” Amazon senior manager of external communications Ashley Robinson told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “Amazon has an open-door policy that encourages employees to bring their comments, questions, and concerns directly to their management team. We firmly believe this direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our workforce.”

The pressure on Amazon comes after the company announced it was raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour, effective Nov. 1. The wage hike comes at the expense of other benefits, such as stock awards and incentive pay, but Amazon says the increased wage “more than compensates” for the reduced perks. (RELATED: Amazon Raises Wages But Cuts Other Major Perks For Many Hourly Employees)

Amazon’s workplace conditions and its treatment of employees has been the subject of several investigations, including one where a reporter said he spent nearly a month in 2016 working in an Amazon warehouse in Britain.

“I’ve worked in warehouses before, but this was nothing like I had experienced,” James Bloodworth, the undercover journalist, told Business Insider. “You don’t have proper breaks — by the time you get to the canteen, you only have 15 or 20 minutes for lunch, in a 10-1/2-hour working day. You don’t have time to eat properly to get a drink.”

Amazon pushed back against the allegations made by Bloodworth and asserted that the reporter played up his claims and spread misinformation to help the sales of his book. He sensationalized “unfounded or unverified accusations for his own personal profit,” Robinson’s statement said.

“This is a tired narrative created to sell a book and despite his negative experience and views on the company, Bloodworth found no issues selling on Amazon,” Robinson said.

This post was updated with comment from Amazon.

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