Posts with «unions» label

Over 700 UK Amazon workers walk out over pay issues

More than 700 warehouse workers at an Amazon warehouse in England walked out this week in a dispute over a pay increase, reportedReuters. Amazon did not agree to the hourly rate increase of £2 (or $2.44) requested by the trade union representing the employees, instead offering a raise of 34 pence. GMB, the trade union representing the employees at the Tillbury facility (a suburb of Essex in Eastern England), said workers walked out on both Wednesday and Thursday.

“Amazon is one of the most profitable companies on the planet," Steve Garelick, a regional organizer for GMB, toldABC. “With household costs spiraling, the least they can do is offer decent pay.”

Garelick posted video footage of the protesting Tillbury workers, who began their walkout shortly after Amazon delivered the news that it would not meet the union’s demands. Management reportedly "withdrew catering" at the facility, and told workers that they would be terminated if they left the premises.

16.00 at Amazon Tilbury Essex today pic.twitter.com/bKWnv7BUow

— Steve Garelick (@steve_garelick) August 4, 2022

GMB began campaigning for higher pay and better health standards for Amazon warehouse workers in the UK in 2013, even calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the company’s labor practices. Amazon doesn’t recognize the GMB union at Tillbury or any of its other warehouses across the UK.

Dozens of Amazon workers at another UK warehouse — in Rugeley — also walked out yesterday due to a payment dispute. “Amazon Rugeley announced a 50p wage increase citing the local/Rugeley pay rate average. The news didn’t sit well with the associates and more than 100 people walked out in the canteen as a protest, which affected a lot of customer shipments,” an anonymous worker toldThe Birmingham Mail.

Exclusive: Amazon instructs New York workers 'don't sign' union cards

Amazon — the second-largest employer in the United States — has made plain its desire to keep its workforce from unionizing. In one of its warehouses, ALB1 in upstate New York, that message has become crystal clear: "Don't sign a card." 

Photos of the new digital signage were sent to Engadget by an employee at the facility; their presence was confirmed by a second employee, David, who claims to have been at the fulfillment center approximately since its opening in 2020. According to David (whose full name is being withheld for fear of retribution by his employer) the carousel of anti-union posters went up today and cycles between approximately seven different slides, each actively discouraging workers from signing a union card. "It's on a constant loop while people punch in and punch out of their shifts," he said, "[when] they go on their breaks, or they go on their lunch. Any time that we're going to be up towards the front." 

Amazon has been known to post signage meant to discourage unionization at other facilities. As Vice reported in March, workers at JFK8 in Staten Island, New York were treated to an array of posters with circumspect slogans like "Is union life for me?" and "Will the [Amazon Labor Union]'s voice replace mine?" The signage at ALB1 appears to be the most forceful the company has been with expressing its disdain for an organized workforce. The company also has a track record of breaking labor laws and frustrating organizing efforts: firing or otherwise retaliating against workers, preventing workers from handing out pamphlets and interfering with a union election. Behind closed doors, the company also planned a smear campaign against a prominent organizer. 

We've reached out to both Amazon and the National Labor Relations Board for comment on the legality of this signage and will update if we hear back. 

Workers at ALB1 have been pushing to form a union since at least May. It's not yet clear if the organizing efforts are pointed towards joining Amazon Labor Union — the grassroots group that successfully voted to unionize one of the Staten Island facilities in April — though based on the new signage, management at this fulfillment center appears to consider the group its primary threat. Nearly all of the signs specifically reference ALU, which the company calls "untested and unproven"; another even suggests joining ALU would involve giving up some measure of personal privacy, though it's not clear in what way. We've reached out to ALU as well and will update if we hear back from the group. 

Activision Blizzard faces unfair labor practices complaint over staff unionization efforts

The Communications Workers of America has filed an unfair labor practices complaint against Activision Blizzard, accusing the company of retaliating against workers over their unionization efforts. If you'll recall, the quality assurance workers at the Activision studio Raven Software announced their plans to unionize in January. That's after Activision laid off 12 of its QA contractors despite Raven asking to keep them on. Workers at the studio went on strike following the event, demanding that all contractors be hired as full-time employees. 

In its complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board, the CWA accused the company of violating federal law by terminating those QA workers. The group also pointed out that Activision reorganized the studio by disbanding the QA team and embedding testers in other departments just mere days after they requested union recognition. In addition, Activision Blizzard allegedly withheld pays and benefits in April in response to the workers' unionization efforts. 

According to previous reports, the company also actively and strongly discouraged workers from voting to unionize. Union organizer Jessica Gonzalez revealed on Twitter back in January that Activision VP of QA Chris Arends posted a message on a locked Slack channel diminishing the benefits of unionization. "A union doesn't do anything to help us produce world-class games, and the bargaining process is not typically quick, often reduces flexibility, and can be adversarial and lead to negative publicity," Arends wrote

A piece by The Washington Postalso said that company leadership held town meetings to dissuade workers from organizing and sent out emails with a message that says "Please vote no." Those efforts had failed, and CWA won the election to unionize at Raven with a vote of 19 to 3. Xbox head Phil Spencer reportedly said before the vote that he would recognize a Raven union once Microsoft's acquisition of the developer is complete.

Game Workers Alliance/CWA organizing committee members Erin Hall, Lau Nebel-Malone and Marie Carroll said:

"The reorganization and withholding of pay raises and other benefits and the company's failure to rehire laid off QA testers were clearly attempts by Activision to intimidate us and interfere with our union election in violation of the National Labor Relations Act."

Meanwhile, an Activision spokesperson disputed the allegations in a statement sent to Bloomberg:

"We respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether or not to support or vote for a union, and retaliation of any kind is not tolerated."

As the news organization notes, complaints filed with the NLRB are investigation by regional offices. In case they're found to have merit and aren't settled, they can be prosecuted by the agency's general counsel.

Little of Microsoft's 'principles for employee organizing' is actually pro-union

Thursday afternoon, Microsoft's president and vice chair Brad Smith penned a blog post outlining four "principles" the company would be adopting in response to the recent wave of union efforts in the US. Admittedly it's surprising for a company this size in the tech industry to — in word or deed — strive for anything less than the complete destruction of any organizing effort. But Smith's post contains precious little substance.

Let's begin with the bolded line right past the preamble: "Our employees will never need to organize to have a dialogue with Microsoft’s leaders." Anyone who has ever been involved in an organizing campaign will recognize this as a gentler version of the typical management talking point that a company "prefers a direct relationship" with its employees. The reason being, of course, that without an observer or weingarten rep present, a boss or human resources staffer is free to intimidate an employee or bury a complaint. Even in less sinister scenarios, while a one-on-one meeting might feel equitable on its face, it isn't: a boss has the force of the company behind them; a worker lacks that, and is dependent on that same company for their livelihood. The entire purpose for voicing complaints as a group, legally recognized as a union or not, is to limit that vast disparity in power.

This same line of thinking is restated in Smith's first principle:

We believe in the importance of listening to our employees’ concerns. Our leaders have an open door policy, and we invest in listening systems and employee resource groups that constantly help us understand better both what is working and where we need to improve. But we recognize that there may be times when some employees in some countries may wish to form or join a union.

Once again, the implication veers strongly towards a preference for dealing with workers individually. And the linguistic turn that those interested in joining or forming a union are only "some employees" in "some countries" reads as an attempt to undermine such efforts as the work of a vocal minority. 

We recognize that employees have a legal right to choose whether to form or join a union. We respect this right and do not believe that our employees or the company’s other stakeholders benefit by resisting lawful employee efforts to participate in protected activities, including forming or joining a union.

The first half of principle two, reproduced above, could be just as easily restated as "we are committed to obeying the law." It doesn't matter whether Microsoft "recognizes" that the NLRA exists any more than it "recognizes" it can't write whatever it wants on its SEC disclosures. This is simply how things are. Of course, understanding workers have the right to organize hasn't stopped other tech companies (most notably Amazon) from engaging in anti-union actions that have often been found to be in contravention of the NLRA. 

Where things get interesting is the second half of this principle, which sounds an awful lot like a promise of non-interference. Certainly, members of the tech press haveinterpreted it that way. But saying Microsoft might not "benefit" from resisting a union campaign and stating plainly that it will not work against such a campaign are not the same. This particular phrasing also does not claim an anti-union campaign would be actively harmful either, meaning shareholders likely wouldn't have recourse to sue the company if it chooses to take that approach down the line. 

We reached out to Microsoft to ask if it will agree not to hold captive audience meetings or engage union-avoidance law firms to carry out similar actions on its behalf; we also asked if it will agree to voluntarily recognize union drives within its ranks. A spokesperson for the company told Engadget that "Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't have anything further to add at this time beyond what's included in Brad's blog."

We are committed to creative and collaborative approaches with unions when employees wish to exercise their rights and Microsoft is presented with a specific unionization proposal. In many instances, employee unionization proposals may open an opportunity for Microsoft to work with an existing union on agreed upon processes for employees to exercise their rights through a private agreement. We are committed to collaborative approaches that will make it simpler, rather than more difficult, for our employees to make informed decisions and to exercise their legal right to choose whether to form or join a union.

If this isn't de facto an undermining of the union process I don't know what is. Rather than accept a "specific union proposal," Microsoft is saying, quite clearly, it prefers to do something other than agree to that proposal — and in the form of a "private agreement" to boot. (Collective bargaining agreements, which govern the relationship between an employer and it unionized employees, are typically public.) Likewise, anyone should feel a deep suspicion in Microsoft's claim that it can help its workers make "informed decisions" on the kind of workplace they'd prefer to have while also representing its own interests as a business.

Building on our global labor experiences, we are dedicated to maintaining a close relationship and shared partnership with all our employees, including those represented by a union. For several decades, Microsoft has collaborated closely with works councils across Europe, as well as several unions globally. We recognize that Microsoft’s continued leadership and success will require that we continue to learn and adapt to a changing environment for labor relations in the years ahead.

Principle four is almost entirely fluff. It contains no explicit promise on how Microsoft will comport itself differently. Presumably, a company cannot help but maintain a "close relationship" with the people who comprise that company. But it also recalls one of the few instances in which a Microsoft-associated company did successfully organize. In 2014, bug testers who were contracted through an outside firm, Lionsbridge, managed to form a union; within a few years, all 38 of them were laid off. Workers filed a complaint with the NLRB regarding the mass layoffs and Microsoft reportedly spent four years attempting to stall the process and convince the agency it should not be considered a joint employer. While Microsoft's Phil Spencer has more recently voiced support for the group of recently-organized quality assurance testers at Activision Blizzard (which Microsoft is in the process of acquiring), that could just as easily be read as an attempt to twist the arm of the FTC: allow this $69 billion anti-trust nightmare to go through and we won't try to crush the first union within a North American AAA games studio.

While some research has indicated unionizations can lead to a temporarily more frigid response from Wall Street and a small reduction in overall profits, other studies indicate a unionized workforce is just as productive, happier and incurs less turnover — presumably the sorts of qualities a mature business like Microsoft would want to foster. Microsoft could very easily help set an industry-wide precedent by committing to meaningful, well-defined policies: not principles, or goals or a corporate ethos, but actual policies which executives could be held accountable for failing to follow. If and when that time comes it will be a cause for celebration, but it isn't today.

Apple VP tries to persuade employees against unionizing in leaked video

Apple’s vice president of people and retail Deirdre O’Brien tried to dissuade the company’s employees from joining a union in an internal video leaked to several media outlets. In the video — which was sent to all of Apple’s 65,000 retail employees in the US — O’Brien tells workers that a union would slow down the company’s efforts to address worker concerns.

“We have a relationship that’s based on an open and collaborative and direct engagement, which I feel could fundamentally change if a store is represented by a union under a collective bargaining agreement. To put another organization in the middle of our relationship that does not have a deep understanding of Apple or our business. And one that I do not believe shares our commitment to you,” she said in the video.

Unionization efforts are currently underway at a number of US Apple retail stores following months of worker-led protests over low pay and long hours, including union drives occurring in retail stores in Towson, Maryland, Atlanta, and New York City. A number of retail workers recently accused the company of union-busting. Earlier this month the Communication Workers of America — the union which is seeking to represent workers at the Atlanta location — filed an Unfair Labor Practice filing with the NLRB, accusing the company of holding mandatory “captive audience” meetings with bargaining unit employees.

BREAKING: Apple's head of retail Deirdre O'Brien sent an anti-union video to all of Apple's retail stores in the U.S. on Tuesday.

In the leaked video, she falsely claims that if workers unionize, Apple may not be able to provide "immediate, widespread" benefits going forward. pic.twitter.com/lqREw5kZcJ

— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) May 25, 2022

O’Brien emphasized that a union would block Apple’s efforts to respond swiftly to worker concerns. “Apple moves incredibly fast,” she said in the video. “It’s one thing I love about our work in retail. It means that we need to be able to move fast too. And I worry that because the union will bring its own legally mandated rules that would determine how we work through issues it could make it harder for us to act swiftly to address things that you raise."

The tech giant in February announced it would expand its benefits for US retail employees, including offering paid parental leave and more sick days. It also raised the pay for a number of retail employees. But critics say that the company took these steps amidst a tightening labor market, after years of media coverage and complaints from Apple’s retail workers about the low pay and strenuous work environment.

'Call of Duty Warzone' quality assurance workers vote to unionize

Quality assurance workers at Activision Blizzard studio Raven Software have voted to unionize, becoming the first such group to do so at a major gaming publisher in North America. The National Labor Relations board counted the ballots on Monday — 19 workers voted in favor of the union and three voted against. Two ballots were challenged, though they weren't sufficient enough to affect the result. There were 28 eligible voters and no void ballots.

In December, 60 workers (including contractors and full-time employees) at the Call of Duty support studio went on strike after it laid off 12 QA testers. They demanded that the company hire those workers back. The strike ended the following month, but not before the QA workers announced plans to unionize with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). Once they were back at work, Raven split them up among various departments, in an apparent attempt to make their unionization efforts more difficult.

The workers asked Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognize their union, which they called the Game Workers Alliance. However, the company declined to do so. Last month, the National Labor Relations Board gave the workers the go-ahead to hold a union election.

Activision Blizzard has been accused of union busting. Last July, it hired the law firm WilmerHale, which has reportedly engaged in efforts to stamp out union drives at Amazon and other companies, to review its human resources policies. It also shared anti-union messaging in company Slack channels.

In April, Activision Blizzard said it was hiring 1,100 QA workers on a full-time basis, increasing their pay in many cases and providing benefits. However, it claimed the Raven QA workers were not eligible “due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act.”

Earlier on Monday, the NRLB determined that Activision Blizzard violated the National Labor Relations Act. It claimed the company threatened employees who sought to organize and imposed an 'overbroad social media policy.'

Activision Blizzard is being bought by Microsoft for $68.7 billion, pending regulatory approval. Microsoft has said it "will not stand in the way if Activision Blizzard recognizes a union." The company told Axios in March that it “respects Activision Blizzard employees’ right to choose whether to be represented by a labor organization and we will honor those decisions.”

A second Apple Store union election will take place next month

Employees at an Apple Store in Towson, Maryland have set a date for their union election. Workers at the Towson Town Center location will vote in person over four days, starting on June 15th.

The organizers call themselves Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (AppleCore). They're aiming to unionize with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. 

In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, the group said "a solid majority" of staff supports the union drive. They said they are organizing "because of a deep love of our role as workers within the company and out of care for the company itself." They want "access to rights that we do not currently have" and for Apple to apply the same neutrality agreements it has with suppliers to workers, "so that as employees we can obtain our rights to information and collective bargaining that the law affords us through unionization."

They will be the second group of Apple Store workers to stage a union election. Those at the Cumberland Mall location in Atlanta will vote in early June on whether to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

Employees at Apple Stores other than the Towson and Atlanta locations are conducting union drives as well. Workers at the Grand Central Terminal store in New York City have been collecting signatures for a union vote.

While Apple has agreed to the elections in Maryland and Georgia, the company is reportedly fighting unionization efforts. It's said to have hired the same anti-union law firm as Starbucks. The company has also reportedly used anti-union talking points in pre-shift meetings at some locations. This week, workers at two stores accused Apple of union busting in Unfair Labor Practice filings.

Apple Store workers at the World Trade Center accuse the company of union busting

The Communications Workers of America has filed a second Unfair Labor Practice charge against Apple this week. This time, the labor union is accusing the tech giant of violating multiple federal labor laws at its flagship World Trade Center store. The complaint alleges that Apple interrogated workers at the WTC store regarding their "protected concerted activities." Apple also allegedly monitored those activities, or at least made employees believe that they were being monitored. Based on the group's filing, those incidents happened on or about May 3rd. 

By May 15th, the group said Apple "unlawfully implemented" a rule at the store that prohibits employees from posting union flyers in work areas during their breaks. Further, it's accusing the tech giant of conducting "captive-audience" speeches designed to discourage them from unionizing. 

Earlier this year, Apple Store workers across the US started planning to unionize in an effort to get the company to increase their pay, which they claim isn't keeping up with the cost of living. Apple reportedly hired anti-union law firm Littler Mendelson, which counts Starbucks and McDonald's as clients, in response. According to a Motherboard report, the company also recently started arming its Store managers with anti-union talking points. They were apparently instructed to tell employees that they could lose career opportunities, as well as personal time off and work flexibility, if they join a union. 

The Communications Workers of America also filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint against Apple on behalf of workers at the Cumberland Mall store on May 17th. In it, the group accused the company of holding mandatory captive audience meetings regarding the upcoming union election for the Atlanta location that's scheduled to take place in early June. 

Tim Dubnau, CWA's Deputy Organizing Director, said:

"Apple retail workers across the country are demanding a voice on the job and a seat at the table. Unfortunately, and in contradiction to its stated values, Apple has responded like a typical American corporation with heavy-handed tactics designed to intimidate and coerce workers. The best thing Apple can do is allow workers to choose for themselves whether or not they want a union. When we learn of situations where Apple is violating labor law, we intend to hold the company accountable and help the workers defend their rights under the law."

Apple Store employees accuse company of union busting

Apple Store employees who are organizing in Atlanta have accused the company of union busting and violating the National Labor Relations Act. The Communications Workers of America submitted an Unfair Labor Practice filing on behalf of workers at the Cumberland Mall store, who say Apple has conducted captive audience meetings in an attempt to fight their union drive.

For decades, companies have been allowed to conduct captive audience meetings until 24 hours before a union election begins. Employers typically use these mandatory meetings to deliver anti-union messaging.

However, as The Verge notes, National Labor Relations Board general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo claimed in a memo last month that such meetings are in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. "Forcing employees to listen to such employer speech under threat of discipline — directly leveraging the employees’ dependence on their jobs — plainly chills employees’ protected right to refrain from listening to this speech," Abruzzo wrote.

The Cumberland Mall Apple Store workers filed for a union election with the NLRB last month. The election is set for early June. The workers said that while they "love this company," they are fighting for better pay and benefits, among other things.

Union drives are in progress at other Apple Store locations. Earlier this month, it was reported that Apple gave retail store managers anti-union talking points to use in daily "download" meetings that take place before shifts.

Engadget has contacted Apple and the CWA for comment.

Activision Blizzard reportedly sent out anti-union message ahead of voting deadline

The management at Raven Software, the Activision Blizzard subsidiary that develops Call of Duty games, has reportedly been trying to convince its employees to vote against unionization. According to The Washington Post, the Raven management has been sending out messages and holding town hall meetings ahead of the election deadline on May 20th. 

During a meeting held on April 26th, company leadership suggested that unionization might not only impede game development, but also affect promotions and benefits. After that meeting, The Post says management sent employees an email with a message that's more direct to the point: "Please vote no." The Raven employees the publication talked to said the company's efforts were ineffective, though, and that they still voted yes for unionization. 

This saga began late last year when Raven suddenly laid off around a third of the group's QA testers after months of promising better compensation. Activision Blizzard workers staged a weeks-long strike in support of the QA employees, and unionization efforts started at the same time. Since then, Activision has been trying to dissuade workers from forming a union. 

Activision VP of QA Chris Arends reportedly told team members in a Slack meeting that a "union doesn't do anything to help us produce world-class games, and the bargaining process is not typically quick, often reduces flexibility, and can be adversarial and lead to negative publicity." The National Labor Relations Board granted the quality assurance testers' permission to hold a union vote in April, though, and workers have been sending in their ballots by mail over the past month. We'll soon find out if Activision's alleged union-busting efforts are effective soon enough: The NLRB will be counting the ballots via video conference on May 23rd.