Amazon spent more than $14.2 million last year on outside consultants whose job was to convince workers not to unionize, according to new disclosures filed Friday with the Labor Department.
The unusually large expenditures on anti-union consultants show how determined the online retail giant is to prevent collective bargaining within its workforce. The company remained union-free in the U.S. until last year when the upstart Amazon Labor Union (ALU) successfully organized a warehouse in Staten Island, New York.
Amazon has more than 100 warehouses in the U.S. and has managed to keep unions at bay since the ALU’s upset victory last April. However, workers rejected union bids at two other warehouses in New York following the Staten Island vote.
Labor consultants have been a key ingredient in the company’s counter-campaign, delivering anti-union talking points in what are known as “captive audience” meetings with workers. The company pays firms around $3,000 per day, plus expenses, for each consultant, according to filings.
“Amazon managed to remain union-free in the U.S. until last year, when the upstart Amazon Labor Union organized a warehouse in Staten Island.”
Employers and their consultants are obligated to disclose their arrangements with the Labor Department so that workers understand who the company hired and how much it paid to lobby them on unionization. The deadline for employers to inform the government of their 2022 spending was Friday.
It is relatively rare for a company to disclose spending in excess of $1 million on labor consultants in a single year, let alone more than $14 million. Still, Amazon boasts a worldwide workforce of around 1.5 million and had $514 billion in sales last year, according to its most recent annual report. The company has faced union organizing drives in Alabama, New York, California and elsewhere in the U.S.
Amazon spent $4.3 million on anti-union consultants in 2021, HuffPost reported.
Connor Spence, an Amazon worker in Staten Island and organizer with the ALU, told HuffPost last year that he and other workers researched the anti-union consultants in their warehouse to expose them and their fees to other workers. They also openly challenged the consultants in meetings to undermine their message.
“Their job is to operate in the shadows,” Spence said at the time. “When you expose them for what they are, it makes it very difficult for them to do their job.”
The ALU is still trying to negotiate a first contract with Amazon for workers at the Staten Island facility, known as JFK8. In addition, Amazon disputed the election results, in which the union won 2,654 to 2,131, accusing organizers and the National Labor Relations Board of illegally tainting the vote.
Amazon’s challenge ultimately failed, and the union was made official in January. But the company still succeeded in wasting time and avoiding bargaining with the union for nearly nine months.