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The largest internet company in the world by revenue, Amazon, has recently come under major scrutiny for its treatment of employees across departments. Amid allegations of forcing employees to urinate in bottles, work overtime without breaks, and accept less pay than they actually earned, a call to unionize has sprung up in a rather unlikely place. Nearly 6,000 Amazon warehouse employees in Bessemer, Alabama submitted ballots on March 29, indicating whether or not they wished to form a union in their workplace. The historic vote count for the facility is expected to be announced as soon as this week.
Alabama is a long-standing red state, with 62 percent of the population voting for Trump in the 2020 election. Though Alabama is the most unionized of the southern states, it still comes in as the 30th most unionized states among the fifty states and Washington D.C. — making this unprecedented push for unionization at the Bessemer Amazon facility particularly unexpected.
As media coverage of the events surrounding the union vote has permeated nearly every major publication, some have speculated that one of Amazon’s core business philosophies could be to blame for its mistreatment of workers: ‘Day 1’. Jeff Bezos first outlined the ‘Day 1’ mentality in a 1997 letter to Amazon’s shareholders, and it has since become a cornerstone of the company’s workplace culture.
Dan Slater, who holds the position of Worldwide Lead of the Culture of Innovation department at Amazon Web Services (AWS), elaborates on the principles of the ‘Day 1’ philosophy in a blog post on the AWS website.
“By maintaining a customer-obsessed culture and working backwards from your customers’ needs, your innovations are better set up for success right from the start,” he writes.
He goes on to describe the contrasting ‘Day 2’ mentality, which the connotative language in the blog post heavily discourages.
“The danger is that as this happens, decision making can slow down, and the company can become less agile, moving further and further away from the customer as it rotates focus towards internal challenges rather than external customer-centric innovation.”
Some have said that this obsessively customer-forward philosophy is the root of Amazon’s mistreatment of workers. While they must perform their job of delivering household necessities such as toilet paper and laundry detergent at record speeds, they themselves cannot find time to take care of their own basic needs.
The alleged mistreatment has also affected higher-ups within the Amazon corporate structure. A 2012 complaint filed with the state of Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries reads that Amazon had failed to provide sufficient lavatory facilities for male employees in its Seattle headquarters. “Employees routinely traverse multiple buildings in search of available facilities.”
Another complaint filed in 2014 by an employee in the same department claimed that employees got only 12 minutes each day for “bathroom, getting water, personal calls, etc.” apart from scheduled breaks. Anyone who required more time for such needs had to provide a doctor’s note “explaining… [their] need to void more than usual.”
A vote outcome that favors a union in the Alabama Amazon warehouse could be the first of many, with numerous journalists speculating that success could spur other Amazon facilities and departments to unionize as well.
Facebook, Google, And More Pressure SEC to Require Business Climate Reports
Seven of the biggest technology companies in the world are urging the federal government to hold them accountable about climate change.
Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google parent company Alphabet, and more sent a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler on Friday, asking that the SEC require businesses to regularly reveal issues related to climate change to shareholders and the public.
The coalition’s letter stated that the companies “believe that climate disclosures are critical to ensure that companies follow through on stated climate commitments and to track collective progress towards addressing global warming and building a prosperous, resilient zero-carbon economy.” It marks one of the most high-profile attempts by big tech to spur more self-responsibility and involvement from their sector and follows other instances of the industry being vocal about the need to address climate change.
Perhaps the biggest request in the letter is regarding greenhouse gases. The companies claim that the SEC should require businesses to report on these gas emissions in an annual report that provides transparency to anyone involved in the company and any potential customers as well.
Additionally, the group of businesses stated that they have purchased 21 gigawatts of clean energy in their quest for a fully renewable economy.
The letter doesn’t come as a major surprise, since many major tech companies have long been adamant about fighting climate change. However, even the most vocal companies have been criticized for their lack of tangible action. Recently, some of these companies – such as Amazon – have put forth plans to show how serious they are about tackling the pressing issue. Jeff Bezos launched the “Climate Pledge” in September 2019, which included plans for Amazon to use 80% renewable energy by 2024 before transitioning to complete zero emissions by the year 2030.
SpaceX NASA lunar lander contract suspended following formal protest from competitors
Just two weeks after it announced its $2.9 billion contract to build NASA’s lunar lander spacecraft, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been asked to put the project on hold in light of formal protests filed with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) by competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics. All three space engineering firms had originally been in talks with NASA to collaborate on the Artemis project, which will be the first to put humans on the moon since the Apollo 17 mission nearly 50 years ago; however due to budgetary limitations, NASA chose to only work with SpaceX instead of all three companies.
SpaceX’s Starship rocket system, which is under development for both private and public use ferrying humans and cargo to the Moon and Mars, won the contract for its payload capacity and $2.9 billion bid — far cheaper than what Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin or Dynetics could offer, according to a NASA source selection document
In a lengthy formally-filed protest, Blue Origin accused NASA of making last-minute changes to the proposed lunar lander project that sacrificed the integrity of the project. It also claimed that NASA failed to attempt to negotiate a proposed price with it, where it had done so with SpaceX.
Bezos’s space firm called NASA’s decision “high risk,” claiming that the decision “eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers America’s return to the Moon.”
“Pursuant to the GAO protests, NASA instructed SpaceX that progress on the [Human Landing System] contract has been suspended,” NASA spokeswoman Monica Witt said in a statement.
True to his devil-may-care attitude with regard to most matters, Musk responded to the Blue Origin protest on Twitter:
Amazon warehouse employees vote against union; RWDSU raises concerns
Photo credit: AP News/Jay Reeves
Perhaps in response to a strong push from their employer, the overwhelming majority of voters in the historic Amazon warehouse unionization election decided that they preferred not to participate in a union. Nearly 1,800 Amazon employees in a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama cast their vote in opposition, expressing their concerns about job security and lack of legitimate benefits in exchange for union dues. If the vote had passed, the warehouse would have been the first Amazon location to unionize.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) plans to file Objections to the results of the vote, claiming that Amazon “[created] an atmosphere of confusion, coercion and/or fear of reprisals.” Some sources also suggest that votes were cast against the union due to fears that Amazon may cancel its plans of opening more warehouses in areas surrounding the low-income locality.
Amazon issued a statement on Friday after the votes had been counted saying that “employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from [Amazon.]” The post also notes that the election results were not a win for Amazon, but for its employees whose voices were heard that day.
Despite this, numerous accounts of anti-union meetings and literature posted throughout the warehouse point towards Amazon’s distinct opposition to the unionizing efforts. Some employees described meetings as “mandatory,” during which company higher-ups informed them about other RWDSU contracts, which appeared to indicate that the union’s current members did not see significant changes in their pay.
Amazon has been under fire for its labor ethics for years, with countless employees claiming that they often are prohibited from tending to their basic needs such as bathroom time and drinks of water. A recent media controversy also led to the discovery that some Amazon delivery drivers had been forced to urinate in plastic bottles while on the clock.