Labour bites

Amazon’s brutal anti-union campaign

Amazon won the majority of ballots cast in the union election by the company’s warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, in a major setback in the fight to organise one of the most powerful corporations on the planet.

In an election in which around 5800 workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama warehouse were eligible to vote, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) received 3215 mail-in ballots. Amazon secured a majority of ‘no’ votes on the question of unionising with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Were they to unionise, these workers would have become the first unionised Amazon employees in the United States.

The union has announced that they will file objections with the NLRB over Amazon’s conduct during the election process, claiming the employer “created an atmosphere of confusion, coercion and/or fear of reprisals and thus interfered with the employees’ freedom of choice.”

Amazon was able to hold “captive audience meetings,” mandatory sessions where workers heard management tell them why they shouldn’t unionise, where they are able to misrepresent facts with little to no penalty. The company texted workers several times a day to urge them to vote no, and covered bathroom stalls with anti-union flyers.

That Amazon can do any of this is evidence of how existing labour law favours employers.

Notably, none of these actions would be legal under the PRO Act, a labour law reform bill that recently passed in the United States House of Representatives. In a press conference the RWDSU’s president, Stuart Appelbaum said as much, stating, “We have to work hard for labour-law reform.”

Source: Jacobin

#UNIONWIN for workers in Melbourne

On the evening of 7 April, after almost six weeks on strike, United Workers Union members at McCormick voted to accept a new offer from the company. For five years McCormick has worked to slash hard-won conditions and offered a 0% pay rise. After almost six weeks on strike, McCormick workers have managed to retain all the conditions and won a fair pay rise.

The offer includes a 9% pay rise across three years, retaining all previous conditions the company wanted to remove including a four-day week roster, and a $5000 sign-on bonus.

McCormick is a multi-national corporate giant, with a market capitalisation of $US24 billion, and boasts over $5 billion in annual sales across 160 countries and territories. The company’s wage cutting drive at the Melbourne plant is part of an international restructuring offensive against its global workforce. In other words, this unlikely to be the end of the struggle for workers at the Melbourne plant and elsewhere.

Source: United Workers Union

Palestinian workers in Israel and the settlements

A new report released by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has revealed the scandalous exploitation of Palestinian workers who work inside Israel and in the illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

High unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza is leaving Palestinians with little alternative to taking jobs in Israel and the settlements. More than 130,000 people try to earn a living in this way.

The report exposes the reality of low wages; poor occupational health and safety; the humiliation of having to queue at border crossings to enter Israel; gaps in social protection; and the oppressive labour broker system that many workers are still forced to use, even though the system has been removed by the Israeli authorities in the construction sector.

Key recommendations in the report include: a complete end to the exploitative labour broker system; respect for the fundamental rights of the workers, in line with the floor of labour protections guaranteed in the ILO Centenary Declaration including an adequate minimum wage; occupational health and safety and maximum limits on working hours; labour inspection; social protection; due diligence requirements on employers.

“On top of the injustice of occupation, Palestinian workers in Israel and the illegal settlements face injustice at work as well. Israel must fulfill its obligations under international law,” said Sharan Burrow.

Source: International Trade Union Confederation