Amazon union buster reportedly warned workers that they could get lower pay

The workers at Amazon's JFK8 facility will hold a union vote in March.

A worker assembles a box for delivery at the Amazon fulfillment center in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne (Clodagh Kilcoyne / Reuters)

An Amazon union avoidance officer has reportedly told workers at the company's JFK8 warehouse that there's a possibility they could get lower pay than what they're currently getting if they unionize. Motherboard has obtained an audio recording of a mandatory anti-union meeting that happened on Wednesday, wherein the officer could be heard describing the collective bargaining process. "The negotiation phase of the process is called collective bargaining, and in the negotiation, there are no guarantees. You can end up with better, the same, or worse than you already have," the officer said.

An employee then cuts in and asks what they mean that workers could end up with worse, and the officer responds that there are no guarantees what would happen: "We can't promise what's going to happen. Amazon can't promise you that they're going to walk into negotiations and that the negotiations will start from the same [pay and benefits workers have already]. They could start from minimum wage for instance. I don't think that will happen, but it's a possibility."

"So you're saying that Amazon’s gonna say..." the worker said, to which the officer responded: "I just said I'm not saying that." When the worker asked "So why put that out there?" the officer completely changed the topic. In addition, the officer also talked about how workers will be liable to pay union dues if they unionize and that there's no limit to how much they could be charged in New York. The election will have "significant and binding consequences not just for yourselves but for future associates, your coworkers, and potentially for your family," they warned.

Frank Kearl, the lawyer representing workers at JFK8, told Motherboard:

"The [union avoidance consultant] makes the threat and tries to walk it back but once you’ve poisoned the well you can’t take it back. Even though she realized she made a mistake in making the threat, it doesn’t mean the threat wasn’t made and heard by all the workers who were forced to sit in on that session. It's against the law and an unfair labor practice to make a threat of reprisal.”

The National Labor Relations Board had previously accused Amazon of threatening, surveilling and interrogating workers at its JFK8 warehouse to discourage them from unionizing. A union avoidance consultant reportedly told them back then that organizing at the warehouse would fail anyway, because the organizers were "thugs." Amazon denied the allegations.

The Amazon Labor Union, which is an independent group seeking to represent workers in the company, successfully collected enough signatures at JFK8 in its second attempt to unionize. Amazon and the ALU have reached an agreement to hold an in-person union vote at the facility between March 25th and March 30th.