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Unions, Workers Call Out Backroom Deal To Sneak Amazon Into Airport

New York, NY – Teamsters Local 863 member George Boada, 45, grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey and still lives “about seven traffic lights” away from Newark Liberty International Airport with his wife and their 14-year-old son. Boada’s worked at the same Jersey-based supermarket cooperative for more than 25 years. Now, however, he fears that Amazon and it’s ever growing monopoly is about to bring it all crashing down.

“As companies fold under Amazon’s weight, it’s either you join them, or you go by the wayside. That’s what we’re facing. We’re facing a juggernaut — they’re not stopping,” Boada told LaborPress outside the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s 4 World Trade Center offices on Thursday, Dec. 16.

The Teamsters, along with RDWSU and other worker advocacy groups belonging to the coalition calling on New York State Governor Kathy Hochul to back new anti-trust legislation pending in the Legislature, rallied outside the Amazon Go outlet at the corner of Church and Cortland streets in Manhattan this week, before marching over to the Port Authority offices where the agency was busy behind closed doors planning a new regional hub for Amazon at Newark Airport.

“What Amazon is doing in New Jersey right now is exactly what [Amazon] tried to do in New York, in Long Island City,” ALIGN Executive Director Maritza Silva-Farrell told a group of roughly 50 protesters. “They cut secret deals — that’s their MO [modus operandi]. That’s what they do. They work with government behind the scenes. They try to cut deals without including the community.”

The 21st Century AntiTrust Act seeks upgrade New York State’s decrepit antitrust laws and at least curb Amazon’s ever-increasing monopoly power around the Empire State.

“We have a corporation, a monopoly that has grown too big to fail — grown with the intent of enriching Jeff Bezos and his corporate shareholders at the expense of workers’ rights, at the expense of our small businesses, at the expense of the climate and at the expense of human dignity,” State Senator Jabri Brisport [D,WF-25th District], chair of the Committee on Families and Children said.

The billionaire club — including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla’s Elon Musk and others — added some $4 trillion to their coffers between March 2020 and March 2021. Bezos alone, added $65 billion to his personal pile.

In 2019, Amazon scrapped plans to build a second headquarters in Long Island City — dubbed “Amazon HQ2” — after refusing to back off on its virulent anti-unionism. Since then, however, the e-commerce giant has opened more than 15 new facilities around the New York region.

Boada says that he’s been lucky — Local 863 has consistently been able to settle equitable contracts with the bosses at Wakefern Food Corp. in New Jersey. But he says that’s becoming tougher to do.

“The last two contracts we’ve received a little pushback with them saying, ‘Look, we need to compete with what’s out there.’ Thank God, we’ve been able to get the bargaining agreement signed without having to strike or anything of that nature,” he said. “But it’s getting harder and harder. And it’s all due to Amazon and these large corporations throwing their weight around and not giving people a living wage.”

New York State Assembly Member Robert Carroll [D-44th District] laced into the Port Authority and said it can’t allow Newark Airport to be “taken over by an anti-union corporation.”

“We can’t let the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey allow Amazon to take advantage or our workers and our families,” he said. “You can’t make billions on the backs of workers and break unions and work in New York and New Jersey. The commissioners and board members should be very clear — you don’t get to use Newark Airport, you don’t get to use JFK Airport if you don’t use union workers.”

The Port Authority appears to be going full speed ahead with plans to establish an Amazon regional hub at Newark Airport, insisting the community isn’t being cut out.

“All airport partners must ensure fairness in hiring practices and compliance with airport wage mandates, which provide one of the highest airport minimum wages in the nation,” a spokesperson said in a statement to LaborPress. “Following a competitive public procurement process, the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners voted at its August 5 board meeting to authorize a transaction with Amazon for the development of an air cargo facility at Newark Liberty International Airport and those negotiations with Amazon are currently underway. Key terms and provisions were presented in public session and a copy of the presentation, resolution and meeting minutes can be found on the Port Authority’s Website. Community engagement is critical to all of our projects and we look forward to continued dialogue as this project moves forward.”

The Amazon Labor Union continues its organizing efforts at the JFK 8 Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, and the RWDSU is looking forward to another union election at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama after the National Labor Relations Board found Bezos’ company cheated during the first one.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, meanwhile, has launched its own campaign to organize Amazon workers around the country.

“The quicker they do it the better it’s going to be for everyone — not just Teamsters, not just Labor — everyone,” Boada said. “People don’t realize when you sit down at home and you’re shopping online and you click the button, as soon as you click that button there’s a warehouse employee putting together your order. There’s a driver at 3 o’clock in the morning racing to get it to you. There’s someone out there fighting through traffic to deliver it. You need to think of those people — not just sit down and say, ‘Oh, this great —click! I got what I wanted.’”

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