People claiming to be former and current employees of Amazon are starting a unionization drive.
Earlier this year, I corresponded with the group, called FACE of Amazon, after they launched a website collecting Amazon workplace grievances and posting them anonymously. The effort launched in the wake of the now-infamous New York Times piece that catalogued a "bruising" workplace culture, and a PR response from Amazon that attempted to discredit the New York Times' reporting.
FACE of Amazon had a message for Jeff Bezos: "It's time for you to finally stop denying Amazon's management problems and start fixing them before someone else forces you to do so (or makes it happen in ways you may not like)."
Now, FACE is changing its enigmatic name to something more concrete: the Amazon Employees Internationally Organized Union, or AEIOU. (Like the song!)
The group writes, "Amazon is great from A to Z for its customers, so we're going to force it to fill in the gaps in employment quality for our fellow mistreated employees through the formation of AEIOU."
Starting today, AEIOU is collecting signatures for their unionization drive online. They're looking for signatures from more than half the population of any one bargaining unit—which could be "a specific subset of employees in a job category or location, depending on our ability to gather signatures from each unit"—in order to take the unionization request to Amazon.
The group says that it would request a third party to verify that these signatures do indeed come from Amazon employees. (Up until now, I've only been able to verify the identities of people affiliated with the group who I interviewed, not every anonymous poster.)
Here's what they say would happen next:
If Amazon refuses to recognize our Union (or only 30% of the employees in the bargaining unit have signed our petition), our Union will then file a petition for representation with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). A secret ballot election would then be held allowing all affected employees in the bargaining unit to vote on whether or not they want to be represented by our Union.
Amazon employs 230,800 people. The last time I checked with FACE, there were about five people associated with the group's "core" organizing efforts and the website had published 205 testimonials.
Right now, AEIOU's grievances are vague. The group has identified "grievance areas," including performance evaluations, promotions, performance improvement plans, HR ethics codes, transfers, firing, and hiring—but they haven't yet written down any concrete asks.
It's no revelation that Amazon has not been keen on unions. In 2000, when a local group associated with the Communications Workers of America started organizing at Amazon, the company began distributing "antiunion material" through its internal website and instructed managers on how to detect warning signs of union activity, including "hushed conversations when you approach which have not occurred before."
A few months later, the company laid off 15 percent of its workforce, with layoffs mostly concentrated in Seattle. Union organizers with the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers said they felt like they were being targeted, but Amazon executives denied that the layoffs had anything to do with union activity.
I've reached out to Amazon for comment on the latest union efforts and will update when I hear back.