SEATTLE Jan 15 A small group of Amazon.com Inc
technicians at a distribution center in Delaware are
voting Wednesday whether to join a union to push for better
benefits and safety rules.
The results of the vote, expected around 7 p.m. local time,
could be a thorn in the side of the world's biggest online
retailer, which is strongly opposed to its staff forming unions
and has recently had trouble with striking German workers.
Around 30 technicians are voting on whether to join the
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
(IAM). A 'yes' vote, requiring a simple majority of those who
cast a ballot, would mean the first union organization of Amazon
employees in the United States.
It does not affect the vast majority of the 1,500 or so
packers and shippers who work at the facility, one of more than
40 distribution centers in the United States.
Amazon has consistently argued against any sort of union
representation for employees.
"We respect the individual rights of our associates and
have an open-door policy that allows and encourages associates
to bring their comments, questions and concerns directly to
their management teams," said Mary Osako, an Amazon spokeswoman,
in an emailed statement.
"We firmly believe this direct connection is the most
effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our
workforce and do not believe there is a need for third-party
John Carr, a representative of the IAM, said he expected
results of the vote late on Wednesday.
Like its brick and mortar rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc
, Seattle-based Amazon discourages any kind of union
activity at its operations. In turn, labor groups are making
efforts to organize in the retail sector.
A group of current and former Walmart employees calling
themselves the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR
Walmart) has campaigned for better wages, hours and benefits. It
does not define itself as a union, but its members pay $5
monthly dues and it is part of the United Food and Commercial
Workers International Union.
Amazon has not so far faced such pressure in the United
States, but late last year more than 1,000 of its workers in
Germany went on strike as part of a long-running pay dispute and
vow to continue industrial action this year.
A group of union activists traveled from Germany to protest
outside Amazon's headquarters in Seattle in December.