Amazon’s anti-unionization playbook
Amazon faces a unionization drive at a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. — the largest and most viable U.S. labor challenge in years. The Times’s David Streitfeld looked into the e-commerce giant’s previous efforts to block organized labor. He found a host of tough tactics … that worked. Will they again?
Among Amazon’s steps to oppose a unionization drive in Chester, Va. five years ago, according to regulatory documents and employees:
Human resources officials were brought in, and some were accused of following workers to glean their positions on the union drive.
Supporters of the effort were described as “a cancer and a disease to Amazon and the facility,” according to Bill Hough Jr., a leader of that organization effort, and a memo from the union sponsoring the effort.
Mr. Hough was accused of insubordination and was told he may lose his job if he continued to have a “negative impact.”
Mr. Hough’s verdict: “There was no mercy.”
Amazon secretly reached a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board, after the union behind the drive lodged a complaint. The company was required to post notices around the warehouse promising good behavior, though it did not have to admit to labor law violations or pay financial penalties.
Organizers of the Alabama unionization effort say the company has tried similar tactics. Amazon, they assert, tried to surveil employees while posting notices around the Bessemer warehouse bad-mouthing the union. (One claimed workers would need to skimp on dinner to pay union dues.) Management even changed a traffic signal to hinder organizers’ efforts to approach workers.
Those accusations prompted President Biden to say that “workers in Alabama” — Amazon wasn’t specifically named — shouldn’t face “intimidation or threats by employers.” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, expressed support for Amazon workers, saying the company had “decided to wage culture war against working-class values.”
Union organizers are pessimistic. Nearly 6,000 workers at the Bessemer warehouse have until March 29 to decide whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “They will fall to threats or think, ‘I won’t have a job, Amazon will replace me,’” Mr. Hough told The Times. He added, “I’m hoping for the best.” In a statement, Amazon said it did not believe the union push in Alabama “represents the majority of our employees’ views.”
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
More European countries suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. Germany, France, Italy and Spain paused the inoculations amid reports that a handful of recipients had developed blood clots. Medical experts said there was “no evidence” linking the vaccine to increased risk of clots, but the moves could add to the problems of Europe’s vaccination initiatives.
improve vehicle charging times, as well as build six battery factories. One analyst said it served as “a blueprint for what legacy carmakers need to achieve.”
Warren Buffett bucks calls for E.S.G. disclosures. In Berkshire Hathaway’s annual proxy, Mr. Buffett’s conglomerate urged shareholders to reject proposals for more transparency of climate-related risks and diversity and inclusion efforts. It’s a marked contrast to the increasing disclosure into environmental, social and corporate governance issues (more on that below).
The Sackler family may relinquish control of OxyContin’s maker. Purdue Pharma has released its bankruptcy restructuring plan, which includes a pledge from its founding family to pay $4.3 billion — $1.3 billion more than previously offered — to reimburse the costs of the opioid epidemic.
Streaming giants dominate the Oscar race. Netflix collected 35 nominations — led by “Mank,” from the director David Fincher — while Amazon earned 12, as pandemic-driven theater shutdowns bolstered online video services and traditional studios shifted many contenders to next year.
Exclusive: Shareholder relations sour at Danone
A day after the chairman and C.E.O. of Danone, Emmanuel Faber, stepped down under pressure from activist investors, other shareholders in the French food giant are turning on the activists. CtW, an adviser to union pension funds with over $250 billion in assets, sent a sharply worded letter yesterday to Artisan Partners, which led the revolt over Mr. Faber’s leadership. The twist in the letter, which was reviewed by DealBook, is that CtW owns a “substantial” number of Artisan shares — and said that the fund needs the sort of governance shake-up it pushed for Danone.
Entreprise à Mission,” which allows companies to take greater consideration of social and environmental issues in their business model. Some 99 percent of shareholders backed the move, but not Artisan Partners. Danone’s performance has recently lagged behind competitors like Nestle and Unilever, Artisan said when calling for boardroom changes, including someone other than Mr. Faber becoming chairman.
For some, there are bigger concerns at stake: Namely, whether the stakeholder model can survive resistance from activist investors focused primarily on shareholder returns.
CtW says Artisan’s own policies are inconsistent with its demands at Danone. Notably, Eric Colson serves as Artisan’s chairman and C.E.O. “Artisan’s call for an independent chair at Danone while maintaining the positions of C.E.O. and chair combined on its own board is inconsistent with best governance practices,” wrote Dieter Waizenegger, CtW’s executive director. He also questioned the firm’s use of “large discretionary cash bonuses” and demanded a discussion with management by the end of the month. Artisan did not respond to a request for comment.
“The economics of investing in bonds (and most financial assets) has become stupid.”
— Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates on the state of the markets.