Seattle, Washington - Amazon.com customer service workers have begun taking the first steps toward forming a union. Employees in Seattle are gathering signatures on union petitions from their co-workers in their effort to build majority support for union recognition and ultimately a collective bargaining agreement.
Workers feel that Amazon has strayed from its goals of providing superior customer service by failing to treat its own customer service workers with respect. "I have worked at this company for more than two years, and I am very committed to this company and delivering the highest quality customer service - which is what Amazon has built its name on," said Alan Barclay a two-year customer service representative, and early leader in the union drive. "We are the voice of the company to its customer and now it is time to build our voice, which means a union contract," continued Barclay.
Last night more than 50 of Amazon's more than 400 Seattle customer service representatives gathered to discuss the union campaign, and adopt a mission statement outlining the issues they want addressed at the company. The meeting ended with a unanimous vote for the recognition campaign and adoption of the mission statement. The Amazon employees also formed an organizing committee to gather the necessary majority of signatures. The workers have named their new organization Day2@Amazon.com/WashTech. In order to gain union recognition a majority of customer service workers in Seattle need to sign onto the mission statement. "This campaign should end the myth that high-tech workers in the new economy do not want to seek representation on the job, and that union are irrelevant in the 21st century," said WashTech Co-Founder and Organizer Marcus Courtney.
Amazon has experienced rocketing growth over the past couple of years and workers say that has only increased the pressures found in an already stressful work environment. "Mandatory overtime, no time off during the holidays and sudden shift schedules with no notice are key issues on why we want to seek recognition." said JJ Wandler, a two-year Amazon veteran.
Job security is also a major issue for workers. For the past year, Amazon has been moving customer service work to cheaper labor markets in North Dakota and India. These moves, by Amazon management, coupled with lay-offs that eliminated two percent of the company's jobs last year, have increased anxiety among Seattle customer service that their jobs may be terminated with out notice. Even though Amazon has added thousands of new workers in other departments as it continues to increase its product lines, workers say this has not increased job security fears because they feel they are locked out of promotions in other parts of the company.
The mission statement adopted last night by the Seattle customer service employees summarizes their issues: "Quality customer service requires professional well-trained individuals that have job security, compensation that reflects our skills and commitment to the company, respect, career development opportunities, continued education and a voice. Amazon .com cannot sustain the standard of excellence that it has attained with anything less than a true commitment to these core values."
Amazon customer service workers feel that if these issues are not addressed, the quality of service delivered to customer will decline. "Amazon needs experienced customer service reps in Seattle for the good of the company, and our customers," say Myrtle Griffiths, an organizing committee member.
Day2@Amazon.com would become a part of WashTech - the Washington alliance of Technology Workers - a local affiliate of the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO. WashTech is a membership-driven organization that advocates for the interests of high-tech workers on workplace rights and public policy issues.