Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Unions Help Drive Amazon out of New York City Area…Again

In 2019, New York City’s labor unions played a key role in tanking the development of an Amazon location in Queens – and the thousands of jobs that went with it. Now, it looks like unions are once again behind a failed deal for a new Amazon cargo hub in Newark, New Jersey.

Labor unions said they couldn’t support the lease for the hub “unless Amazon made a set of concessions that included labor agreements.” This is despite the fact that the project would have created an estimated 1,000 jobs and included “$125 million in renovating two buildings at the airport, and paying the Port Authority more than $300 million over 20 years — including $150 million up front.”

It’s also worth noting that the average starting pay for Amazon’s hourly workers is more than $18 nationally. The median hourly wage in New Jersey was about $23 last year. But the possibility of bringing in hundreds of well-paying jobs didn’t matter if unions like the Teamsters and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) couldn’t benefit from organizing these workers.

This isn’t the first time labor unions have let their drive to gain members lose the area jobs. When negotiations were still ongoing for Amazon’s Queens location, Stuart Applebaum, President of RWDSU, along with the AFL-CIO and Teamsters, called on Amazon to agree to a neutrality pledge, which would allow 2,500 workers to organize at the retail giant’s new location. Even an SEIU local worried that the unions’ continued demand for neutrality “could fan the anti-Amazon flames” and encourage the company to pull out of the deal. And that’s basically what happened.

But killing job-creating deals is kind of the RWDSU’s thing. A little over a decade ago, the union put the kibosh on yet another development – the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx– that cost the city thousands of jobs. Since developers wouldn’t sign a living wage/union neutrality agreement, the union fought the development. The armory, which would have created 1,000 construction jobs and hundreds of permanent positions, was subsequently terminated.

With another failed Amazon deal on the books, New Yorkers and New Jerseyans alike can once again thank union leaders for stripping the area of more job opportunities. 

Categories: AFL-CIOSEIU