How Amazon workers pulled off a union
Updated: Apr 10
A top retail consultant says organizers followed a playbook
Workers at a Staten Island Amazon warehouse voted to unionize last week, securing a significant victory for the labor movement against the retail giant that had successfully been able to fend off all prior organization efforts since its founding in 1994.
So what made the difference that helped the Amazon Labor Union score their win at the New York City facility known as JFK8?
According to Burt Flickinger, managing director of retail consulting firm Strategic Resource Group which assisted in training for the organization efforts, there were a number of factors that helped push the ALU over the edge – but the upstart union followed a playbook that has been used successfully in the past.
SRG has given full-day seminars at unions' requests on how to organize, and bases its training on the strategy that helped former President Barack Obama get to the White House.
Flickinger told FOX Business his firm teaches the methods former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe deployed in the 2008 Democratic primary, which he says helped Obama beat Hillary Clinton.
"It's really employing that successful strategy where President Obama had less than 2% national name recognition but building that block by block through social, digital connective media, friends and family, reaching out to neighbors, that missionary or disciple-like basis and going from groups of 4 to 24 then ultimately hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands to millions," Flickinger said.
"That's the same strategy that the Staten Island union's employing – and respectively – the Teamsters, respectively the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, along with its sister union the [United Food & Commercial Workers International]," he noted.
Flickinger says that inflation already set the stage for workers to demand more from employers as they feel the pinch in their disposable income, and that is giving the labor movement further momentum.
"Even with Amazon's very meaningful increases in hourly compensation over the last 12 to 30 months, the workers had still lost 3 to 5% of their purchasing power," Flickinger said. "So 70% are living paycheck-to-paycheck and have deficient benefits compared to the unionized employers with whom we work, and don't have a pension plan, and really don't have living wages and regular schedules which will be worked out in collective bargaining."
Flickinger predicts that before long, more Amazon warehouses will unionize beyond New York and across the nation, and so will the retail giant's truck drivers and its Whole Foods workers.
"With more strikes coming around the corner and consumers really aggressively supporting the workers and the labor unions, you'll see a transformation organizing effect on Amazon which I encourage even as a very happy Amazon shareholder for years," he said.