Unions Protest Amazon Expansion in Massachusetts

Several construction worker unions have held rallies against Amazon’s plans.

Source : Screenshot via Teamsters25Boston on YouTube.

April 6, 2021

Author : Alex Bustillos

Amazon is planning a “fulfillment center” in North Andover, but local unions say they aren’t satisfied with Amazon’s business practices.

Union leaders say that Amazon has a habit of stiffing construction workers who build their distribution centers and doesn’t give enough benefits including adequate health insurance and pensions. They also say that the work conditions inside the facilities are poor. Amazon has come under increasing scrutiny in the past months, having just days ago for falsely denying allegations from workers that they had to pee in bottles while delivering packages ordered from the retail titan online.

Lou Antonellis, business manager and financial secretary for the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 103, said “they are the richest company in the world,” according to Engineering News-Record. “They need the communities, not the other way around. The communities have the leverage here.”

The union recently put up an electrical billboard that overlooks the highly-trafficked Southeast Expressway reading “Amazon Bad For Boston.” There are rumors that Amazon is looking to build a warehouse complex in the city.

The North Andover complex will employ 1,500 workers in addition to “robotic helpers,” according to ENR.

But some 150 unionists and activists, as well as a handful of local politicians, have protested the distribution facility.

President of the Merrimack Valley Building Trades Chris Brennan said he wants Amazon to hire “a union workforce” to build the facility.

Amazon has retained the Texas-based Hillwood to develop the project, valued at $400 million and sitting atop a 110-acre site. Meanwhile, Whiting-Turner, ranked number 7 on Contractor News’ list of the biggest construction companies in 2021, is the general contractor for the project. The distribution center will feature a 3.8 million square foot, five-story building, which is anticipated for August 2022.

While Whiting-Turner and Hillwood have hired both union and non-union subcontractors, Brennan said “some of the work has been awarded union but a good portion has not.” Union leaders are particularly frustrated about Amazon’s hiring of non-union electrical subcontractors. Additionally, local authorities have hit a nerve by giving the company, which is owned by the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, a $27 million dollar tax break. According to the Washington Post, which is also owned by Bezos, the billionaire’s fortune has increased from $116 billion to $186 billion since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. That’s an increase of more than 60 percent.

“We demand area standards and we will not sit idle as this bad actor comes to North Andover: Amazon,” said Teamsters Local 25 Secretary-Treasurer Tom Mari at a March 1 protest uploaded to YouTube. “They pay substandard wages, they pay crap benefits, and they don’t give a pension so people can retire.”

“Amazon’s founder — get this — makes $300 million dollars a day. A day, gentlemen [and] ladies. $300 million dollars a day, but yet the people that work for him cannot even live in this city or town. That’s a problem,” he added.

Category : Contractor Trades Coronavirus Pandemic Labor Monopolization

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