“This is just the beginning of what I’m sure will be somewhat of a long fight,” New York State Senator Jessica Ramos said addressing a small press gaggle on Thursday morning. Until recently that statement might have been a reference to the ugly and highly public fight to renegotiate Amazon’s disastrous HQ2 deal. Instead, the new battleground is a future warehouse the ecommerce giant plans to take over in the residential neighborhood of Woodside, Queens, just over three miles from the site HQ2 was slated to occupy.
Unlike the heavily publicized contest of HQ2, which pit cities against one another in order to secure more robust incentives for Amazon, the Woodside facility—the first in Queens—flew under the radar. Amazon reportedly signed the decade-long lease on 91,000-square-foot warehouse formerly occupied by a wristwatch company in October, and did not wring any economic sweeteners out of the borough or city to move there, at least to Senator Ramos’s knowledge.
Still, Ramos, State Assemblyman and current Public Advocate candidate Ron Kim, and representatives from advocacy organizations NYCC, DRUM and ALIGN, (all mainstays of protests against HQ2 in New York) turned out to stand on a bland patch of sidewalk bounded by a UHaul facility, a highway, a barbed wire fence, and a cemetery at 11am. Why? To strike out at Amazon’s famously anti-union stance, which to some degree may have done the most damage to its chances of opening its proposed Long Island City headquarters.
“We know that good jobs, good union jobs, end up being the economic anchors in our communities, and that’s exactly what we’re looking for. This is about ending the race to the bottom,” Ramos said. “Today is the first day that we come together to ensure that this warehouse is a union job site.”
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which famously has been advocating for Amazon workers at the Staten Island warehouse to unionize, also came out to support the effort. “I think this narrative about ‘we don’t want jobs and we want to cut our nose to spite our face’ is inaccurate. We actually do want jobs,” Camille Rivera, the National Political and Legislative Director RWDSU, said, pushing back against similar criticism directed at anti-HQ2 politicians who have since been accused of costing the city 25,000 jobs. “We want good jobs, we want protected jobs, and we want Amazon to be responsible when they are coming to a city like New York.” Given the size of the warehouse, Senator Ramos expects the Woodside facility to employ around 2,000 people when it’s finally operational, though no public date exists yet for its opening.
Neutrality in the face of a union drive was a major sticking point between the New York City Council and Amazon’s Brian Huseman during hearings regarding HQ2.
We’ve reached out to Amazon to see if they’d agree to card check neutrality at this as-yet unopened facility. A spokesperson sent along the following statement which did not address our questions:
We work hard every day to ensure all of our employees are treated fairly and with dignity and respect, and we have open and direct dialogue with employees around the country. We are proud to offer a wide variety of work opportunities, which include full-time and part-time employment, regular and flexible scheduling; work-on-site and work-from-home; or be your own boss through our Amazon Flex program where independent contractors earn between $18 to $25 per hour delivering Amazon packages. We have also empowered more than 100 new small package delivery businesses that have created thousands of local driver jobs, offering competitive pay and benefits. We are committed to continue investing in local aspiring entrepreneurs and creating hundreds of job opportunities with the new Amazon delivery station in Queens.