By Bill Parry
Amazon is dismissing a report released this week by one of the city’s largest unions that slams the e-commerce giant’s anti-union, anti-worker, and anti-brick and mortar activities.
The report, entitled “What’s Wrong with Amazon?” released on Nov.28 by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union drew the support of several Queens lawmakers who have criticized the deal by the state and city to bring Amazon to Long Island City.
“This so-called report is a rehash of inaccurate and exaggerated news stories spanning several years that ignore the facts,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “Amazon makes substantial positive contributions to the economy, the communities where we operate, and to the lives and careers of our employees. We have created over 250,000 full time, full benefit jobs across the U.S. that now have a minimum $15 an hour pay.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represent the neighborhood, joined state Assemblyman Ron Kim at a rally supporting the RWDSU report and state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas re-emphasized her opposition to the deal after learning of the company’s alleged mistreatment of workers in the U.S. and abroad in the 13-page report.
“Amazon has so much wealth and power, it could treat its workers well and still maintain a healthy bottom line, but instead of fairly and humanely creating good conditions for its warehouse workers, it chooses to create a living hell,” Simotas said in a statement. “In Queens, we are working people and we are people who care about our neighbors, so a company like Amazon, oozing greed, pigging out on public money and feeding on worker exploitation, is not welcome here.”
Amazon has committed to creating 25,000 full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $150,000 in the next 10 years while investing $2.5 billion to build the 4 million square feet of office space at its HQ2 campus surrounding Anable Basin with the possibility of expanding the space to 8 million square feet and 40,000 jobs.
New York City’s Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to the airwaves this week to defend the Amazon deal and push back against the opposition.
“This deal is not going to get stopped,” Glen said during a Nov. 27 appearance on CNBC. “I can guarantee you five years from now all New Yorkers will be thanking us for having brought them.”
And in a radio interview with WNYC the same day, Cuomo said critics should get past the “ideological debate” over the $3 billion package of state and city incentives to lure Amazon and instead join a more practical discussion going forward.
“Amazon coming to New York is an unparalleled economic boom for the economy. It diversifies the economy, it provides high paying jobs, a diversity of jobs,” he said. “But you also need to make sure the impact of the development helps and doesn’t hurt the economy.”
Amazon stands by its track record across the country during the past seven years as well as its positive contributions to its workers.
“We have invested more than $160 billion in the U.S. economy since 2011 which has created over 360,000 indirect jobs in construction, hospitality, logistics and other professional services,” the Amazon spokesperson said. “Small and medium sized businesses selling on Amazon’s stores have created more than 900,000 jobs. Amazon respects the rights of employees to choose to join or not join a labor union. We firmly believe the direct connection we have with employees is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our employees.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr