When Amazon announced Thursday that it was renouncing another seat in New York, no one was more surprised than the union leaders who had talked with the company the day before.
On Wednesday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo organized a meeting between union leaders and Amazon executives, which resulted in an agreement in principle to set ground rules regarding how the company would react organizing efforts, according to the retailer manager. & # 39; union and another person who was present.
Groups of workers had resisted Amazon's plans for a large office complex in Queens, partly because of what they saw as a hostile relationship with the unions. One of the main stumbling blocks was a new $ 100 million Amazon warehouse located on the west coast of Staten Island, where the retail trade union is trying to organize the 2,500 workers. .
The workers publicly announced their campaign to organize the warehouse in December, soon after Amazon was named Queens for the expansion of its headquarters. The union leaders wanted the company to absentee aggressively to deter employees from joining a union. Amazon had been resistant. There is no union in its vast national network of warehouses or elsewhere in its workforce.
Amazon has other distribution centers in the region, but the Staten Island operation was its first location in New York, where union opposition has long prevented Walmart, another non-union retailer, from establishing itself.
[[[[Learn more about Amazon's decision to withdraw the planned New York seat.
At a recent hearing, city council chair, Corey Johnson, asked Amazon executives they would remain neutral in the face of a push for unionization. "No, sir," said Brian Huseman, vice president of the company. Reiterating a long-standing position on Amazon, he said the company thought it could better address employee concerns by maintaining a direct link with them.
Then, at 11 am on Wednesday, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retailers' Union, moved to Governor Cuomo's office in Manhattan. In an interview, Mr Appelbaum said that he had been joined at the meeting by Teamsters and A.F.L.L.I.O. officials, while Amazon was represented by several leaders. The governor presided over the exchange, which lasted more than an hour, according to Mr. Appelbaum and another person present.
"It was a very productive meeting and we were ready to go ahead," Appelbaum said in an interview. "We started from there thinking that we were on the right track to solve our problems." The offices of Amazon and Governor Cuomo did not want to comment on the meeting.
There is no evidence that the union problem was the main factor taken into account in the Amazon decision. But the eleventh hour meeting suggested that there was an opening just before the announcement.
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Appelbaum stated that Mr. Cuomo had tabled a plan that, according to the unions, would eventually lead to an agreement. The governor wanted the task forces to ask their lawyers to clarify how she would like the company to handle four aspects of her dealings with workers at the Staten Island warehouse, Appelbaum said and the other nobody.
In the terms discussed, they would have no "hostility" between Amazon and the union; the company did not want to retaliate against the workers who sought to organize it; there would be a fair union election process; and there would be an agreement on union access to workers and communications with them.
Workers' groups have not insisted that Amazon's absentee present its anti-union case to workers, Appelbaum said. "We think there should be neutrality" on the part of the company towards unionization, he added, "but the governor said that in order for Agreement, it would not be part of it. "
On Wednesday evening, he said, his union's lawyers began drafting guidelines based on the issues raised at the meeting. He said he expected to continue to discuss with Amazon how the two parties would deal with these issues.
"It was a very cordial meeting," he said. "We have responded to the concerns. We listened to each other. We talked about next steps. Everyone was in agreement to continue the conversation. "The meeting ended with a handshake," he said.
But a day later, he learned through a press alert that Amazon was withdrawing.