RealTime IT News

Amazon Faces Organizing Effort

Petitions seeking a vote on establishing a labor union are being circulated among 400 customer service reps at Amazon.com and the giant e-tailer reportedly is calling meetings to discuss how to handle the organizing effort.

The union push comes from Seattle reps who "feel that Amazon has strayed from its goals of providing superior customer service by failing to treat its own customer service workers with respect," according to a Web site run by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers.

The alliance describes itself as "a democratic, worker-driven union for all high-tech employees. We provide a strong and effective voice for IT professionals both in public policy and in the workplace."

WashTech calls itself a local affiliate of The Newspaper Guild and the Communications Workers of America and is partially funded by a grant from the latter.

"This campaign should end the myths that high-tech workers in the new economy do not want to seek representation on the job, and that unions are irrelevant in the 21st century," said WashTech Co-Founder and Organizer Marcus Courtney.

Issues for workers include job security, mandatory overtime, sudden shift scheduling changes and a stressful work environment, WashTech said.

Amazon.com, meanwhile, said the organizing effort is not the first such move and is nothing new.

WashTech, however, on its site quoted from what it claimed were intercepted internal e-mails at Amazon, saying that an Amazon exec has called an "all-hands meeting" for Friday to discuss union organizing efforts with the workers involved.

In addition, WashTech said managers have already met to discuss the union recognition campaign, and learn how to talk to individual workers regarding a union.

That, however, is standard practice among companies facing organizing efforts as top execs communicate to middle management what can and can't be done.

If a majority of the workers sign cards calling for an election, the union could submit cards to the National Labor Relations Board requesting a vote.

The news had next to no effect on Amazon's stock price. Shares were trading down 50 cents at $27.31 at mid-day.