You are reading

Queens Lawmakers, Activist Groups Continue Fight Against Amazon With Rally at Future Woodside Distribution Center

State Sen. Jessica Ramos at a rally outside Amazon’s planned distribution center in Woodside. (Courtesy of State Sen. Ramos’ office)

Feb. 22, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez

A group of Queens politicians and local activists gathered yesterday at the site of Amazon’s future distribution center in Woodside to vow to continue the fight against the e-commerce giant just one week after the stunning collapse of the HQ2 deal.

The cohort, made up of legislators like State. Sen Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Ron Kim; members from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; and grassroots groups like Make the Road New York stood outside Amazon’s planned delivery center at 26-15 Boody St. to call out the company on its “predatory behavior” and demand changes to its labor practices.

The labor and community leaders, along with the elected officials, were among the most vocal critics of the now-scrapped Long Island City campus plans, citing a slew of concerns with the project that included its buildout, the deal that brought it about, and, of late, Amazon’s labor track record.

The company’s labor practices became the source of much scrutiny after an Amazon executive told the City Council in an oversight hearing earlier this month that the corporation would not remain neutral if its workers wanted to unionize.

Amazon had also been grilled after reports of conditions in their warehouses, like one of workers allegedly urinating into bottles to save time, and another of employees hospitalized after a machine ruptured bear repellent inside a New Jersey facility.

Amazon’s planned delivery center at 26-15 Boody St. (Google Maps/ZoLa)

The company, however, had a “productive” meeting with labor leaders on how it would respond to unionization efforts—just one day before it pulled out of HQ2 plans, according to the New York Times.

While Amazon said it would not start up the HQ2 search again at the time of its announcement, it noted that it would continue to build its presence in New York.

The company current has over 5,000 employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, and signed a deal late last year for the “last-mile delivery” center at the former headquarters of the Bulova watch company in Woodside. The news came about one month after the company announced it had selected Long Island City for its new 25,000-job offices.

The space is expected to employ hundreds of full, part-time and contractor employees, the latter of which are paid between $18 to $25 per hour. It is unclear when the space is expected to open.

Opponents, however, say the center has “the worst jobs Amazon has to offer,” and that the company has an “alarming track record of wage theft, dangerous health and safety conditions and exploitative practices.”

“My neighbors deserve good paying union jobs and my job is to fight for them,” Ramos said at the rally. “When a billion dollar corporation is expected to enter my community, they must understand that they still have a clear responsibility to me and my neighbors.”

Kim, who is running for public advocate with a “people over corporations” slogan, railed against Amazon and even called on Congress to investigate the company, claiming it is too large.

Labor leaders, community organizers and elected officials demand better working conditions for employees at future Amazon warehouse in Woodside. (Courtesy of State Sen. Ramos’ office)

“Amazon is a monopolistic, abusive predatory firm that is designed to exploit, extort and extract as much money, value and wealth out of our communities,” he said.

Camille Rivera, political director for RWDSU, all but said the group is in favor of the jobs Amazon is bringing so long as it is on their terms.

“We must ensure every worker can collectively bargain and organize,” she said. “This Amazon site is just a taste of what’s to come. We can’t fall for Amazon’s divide and conquer strategy.”

RWDSU was among the labor groups that met with Amazon to try to come to an agreement hours before the company cancelled its campus plans.

The grassroots groups said it was their organizing efforts that helped dissolve Amazon’s plans, and it will be their efforts, too, that will bring about the demands they seek for employees at the Woodside warehouse.

“We beat the richest man and corporation in the world by standing together as immigrant rights organizations, anti-gentrification organizations, labor and electeds,” said Anshu Khadka, an organizer for DRUM, a Jackson Heights-based group.

She added: “We continue to stand…and fight to unionize warehouse workers for respect and livable wages and conditions because our people are priceless.”

An Amazon spokeswoman offered a different account of the company’s relationship with its workers than expressed at the rally.

“We work hard every day to ensure all of our employees are treated fairly and with dignity and respect and we have open and direct dialogue with employees around the country,” the spokeswoman said.

Amazon added that it is proud to offer a wide variety of work opportunities, and that its delivery structure has led to thousands of local driver jobs offering competitive pay and benefits being created.

“We are committed to continue investing in local aspiring entrepreneurs and creating hundreds of job opportunities with the new Amazon delivery station in Queens.” the spokeswoman said.

Amazon said it would proceed with its new offices and centers in Nashville and Northern Virginia at the time the New York City plan, which the city and state laid out about $3 billion in performance-based incentives for, was dropped. Half of the jobs at the campus were anticipated to be tech-related.

The construction and building service workers, meanwhile, were the only union jobs laid out for the campus.

It is unclear what will become of the Anable Basin parcels Amazon was slated to build its sprawling campus over in 2020. The lots, however, were already under development for massive mixed-use projects.

email the author: [email protected]

43 Comments

[email protected]

“So-called activists protest free enterprise and career advancement.” There, fixed it for you!

8
22
Reply
Great point, Grandma

Yeah who cares if one worker allegedly urinated into bottles to save time, and another employee was hospitalized after a machine ruptured bear repellent inside a New Jersey facility? We should be concerned about the little guy, Bezos.

13
2
Reply
does not follow

So by wanting better labor practices they’re “protesting free enterprise”?! Are you a supporter of child labor too?

Reply
Mrs. Garrett

Says the person who probably still lives in his mom’s basement and comes up for air to cash his food stamps.

5
11
Reply
huh?

Were you trying to reply to a comment? You’re not great at this internet thing granny…

Reply
Reading is hard for Trumpeters

This article is not about HQ2. you should try reading it before being offended.

15
3
Reply
Anonymous

So soon after the Amazon debacle is NOT the time to be disruptive at another small place of employment. Let’s not run them completely out of town,omg..

15
Reply
Gerald

Amazing how many people see Amazon coming as a good thing. They seem to skip thru all the negative issues like skipping thru the City Council and being able to avoid taxes and import so many more people into an already crowded area and infrastructure, whereas an area like Albany is STRUGGLING for ANY business.

2
17
Reply
Fan of Dough Boy Park

Well, the holy “AOC” ( genuflect) loved Amazon so much she ordered thousands of dollars of products from them . Wait? Is she a …..hypocrite? I don’t know how they do things in upstate New York, where AOC ( genuflect) was raised and then Boston College ,and she interned for the Kennedys( salt of the earth rapists worth hundreds of milllions) but, she knows we don’t need 25,000 jobs, wake up people. If Crowley had only showed up to that debate….

9
23
Reply
ABC

HQ2 was a bad deal that would end up hurting local residents and businesses in the long run.
Not much has been published on this deal. The people against this deal seem to be against amazon in general.

1
22
Reply
Johnny

Why do these people gate this great Country so much, Maybe they should all resign and go and live on there countries of origin, Maybe they would then learn to appreciate a job.

7
25
Reply
me fail english

They already live “on” “there” countries of origin. Are most Trumpeters this stupid?

27
3
Reply
Kevin

The Good News, by backing out of this deal Amazon will not be building a school for the children of these animals.

17
5
Reply
Unions should be obsolete

It’s amazing to me how much of the US population are uneducated about unions and how they are essentially run by organized crime, have no oversight and no accountability, and are a drain to the everyday workers they are supposed to protect. I mean, Jimmy Hoffa was the head of the Teamsters back in the day! It’s incredible that everyday citizens can’t connect the dots here.

Ask any long-time union worker how much he has paid in dues during his career. Then ask him what is rate of return on that investment was. It’s virtually nothing. Want to create more wealth and shrink the income gap? Start by outlawing unions, or at least putting oversight on them and accountable to someone so that union members know where their money is going.

18
35
Reply
Union

You poor soul. You believe what movies and books have told you instead of researching on your own. Organized crime has been driven out of unions. All unions are scrutinized by the government. They check all funds and make sure everything is appropriate. They days of wise guys at job sites are gone. It’s sad people like you think unions are bad. Last time I checked most non union jobs dont like to pay much more than minimum wage. The main point of a union is to collectively bargain with the employers not to kick back to wise guys . As for returns on my “dues” my 401k investments are doing well and so is my pension fund. Unions arent the enemy .

2
4
Reply
You’re being ripped off

I think you are the poor gullible soul for actually believing that organized crime have been “driven out” by the government.

My sources are not from movies and books. They are from first hand experience working in Teamster and Steel Workers environments. Ever try to de-unionize a plant? That’s when the mob thuggery comes out and you see who the real union puppetmaster is.

Also, you should take some classes on personal finance: Your 401K is paid for by you – they are deductions from your paycheck that you worked hard for. Your employer contributes a match, not the union. This is true in union and non-union jobs. Your pension is also paid in by your employer – again, same as any other non-union job. The union doesn’t contribute jack to your personal finances. Instead, they take dues out of each of your pay checks. For what? Add up all the dues you’ve paid over the years. Thousands and thousands of dollars I bet. What have you gotten in return for those? There is a reason why unions’ almost singular focus is on creating as many jobs as possible – they want more dues, more suckers to rip off. More jobs = more dues = more money for the mob bosses behind the scenes.

3
1
Reply
E

What thuggery is left ? You dont hear anyone running through jobs beating people up anymore do you ? I also find it funny that you are in a union and then put it down. I bet you never said no thank you when they handed you your check. I’m sure you didnt say “nay” at a union meeting when they negotiated a raise in your pay. Are there non union jobs that give benefits ? Of course , but I would bet the amount of folks being under payed or at least not fairly compensated is more than you think. And yes I work for my 401k and pension. Money comes out of my check for each of those things , but I wouldn’t have those things if they weren’t collectively bargained. So enjoy your union check while you bite the hand that feeds you.

1
3
Reply
Steve Carrell

Wow.. So the economic carnage wasn’t epic or high enough from the LIC debacle for these poverty pimps? They’d rather a scorched earth policy where they incinerate every job they don’t like and poke out our own eyes to make their extreme ideological point. Rebels without a clue..

34
4
Reply
mrsgarret

Shameful pandering politicians who would not know a hard day’s work if it it hit them in the heads! They will destroy would should be a thriving area with their objections to anything and everything. Vote them all out! #jobkillers

25
56
Reply
No more politicians

The socialist politicians wont stop until they have ran every business out of NYC. Do they ever wonder who is going to pay for the welfare programs they create

39
54
Reply
JH resident

The city and state keep redirecting funds to pay for social programs for illegals…so they aren’t worried about funding welfare.

Why allocate money to the subways when we can give free healthcare to NYC illegals and scholarships to DACA?

8
33
Reply
Vote the job killers out who chased Amazon

Their job killer views don’t represent this Sunnyside voter.

37
7
Reply
LIC DIRECT

CORRECTION!!!! JESSICA IS THE OFFSRPING OF COLOMBIAN IMMIGRANTS NOT DOMINICANS – BET HER PARENTS WERE HARD WORKING INDUSTRIOUS COLOMBIANS WHO WOULD HAVE BEEN THRILLED TO HAVE A JOB AT AMAZON WHEN THEY CAME TO THE USA, PROBABLY IMMIGRATED BECAUSE THEY WERE ECONOMIC REFUGEES AND COULD NOT SUPPORT THEMSELVES THERE DOUBT HIGHLY THEY CAME TO AMERICA ON F-1 STUDENT VISAS TO ATTEND COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY OR HAVARD. WHY DENY OTHERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO EARN A LIVING, PAY TAXES AND CONTIBUTE LIKE THE REST OF US? IF JESSICA WENT BACK TO MEDELLIN, BOGOTA, SANTANDER WOULD SHE BE ABLE TO GET A JOB AT ANYTHING EARNING THE EQUIVALENT OF WHAT AMAZON WILL BE PAYING IT’S WORKERS IN WOODSIDE??? I DOUBT IT — RON DON’T EVEN MENTION, HE’S IS A LOSER. What PEOPLE WANT ARE JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, TAX REVENUE. Ramos, Kim you are so out of touch — PEOPLE WANT JOBS!!!!! WE WILL VOTE OUT GIANARIS, VAN BRAMER, COREY JOHNSON AND OTHERS WHO ARE AGAINST JOBS AND PROGRESS. THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY WILL BLACKLIST YOU ALL, THEY WILL NOT EMPLOY ANY OF YOU ONCE YOU ARE OUT OF OFFICE – THESE POLITICIANS SHOULD THINK OF THEIR OWN FUTURE EMPLOYMENT, IF THEY KEEP THIS UP THEY WILL BE VOTED OUT OF OFFICE AND BECOME UNEMPLOYABLE IN THIS CITY. HEARD JIMMY VAN BRAMER WAS SEEN ALREADY PRACTICING HIS BOOK STACKING ABILITY AT THE LOCAL SUNNYSIDE LIBRARY.

20
242
Reply
Jordan

This Progressive movement is making Sunnyside and Long Island City impossible to live and be apart of. The idea that raising property value while adding jobs and tax revenue is a bad thing is unbelievable and reprehensible! Our neighborhood has a chance to be an epicenter of technology, commerce and JOBS!, but because Amazon supports ICE and is getting tax breaks for wanting to invest their huge and still growing company that will bring all of the opportunities listed above, we have to suffer from not reaping the benefits because of a small faction of this terrible Progressive movement.

32
47
Reply
Gardens Watcher

More grandstanding and complaining from pols with NO plans for creating jobs or fixing infrastructure problems.

38
8
Reply
Mrsgarrett

Worst jobs as opposed to zero jobs ? These people have lots of free time on their hands to protest

28
62
Reply
get a job hippie

Wow you’ve made a LOT of comments on this post. You have lots of free time on your hands to comment.

Reply
JH resident

I’m sure if Amazon were planning to hire illegal aliens at this location, Jessica Ramos would have nothing to say.

Her agenda is to stop all progress and growth in Queens and to deliver more benefits and handouts to illegal aliens. She’s a result of the demographics voting for someone who looks and speaks like them, instead of someone interested in improving Queens.

32
33
Reply
El loco

These ignorant pandering politicians are going to kill our community. No business will want to come here and jobs will go elsewhere. NYC will become like Detroit. Decent people have to stand up to them.

29
3
Reply
Mrs. Garrett

We are slowly turning into Detroit; people who can afford to leave are voting with their feet.

6
23
Reply
Hmm

Why are they protesting for better labor conditions if they don’t work?

You’re not great at this logic thing granny.

28
3
Reply
wat

Encouraging enterprise? The workers just want bathroom breaks so they don’t have to pee in bottles. I’m sure the little mom and pop shop called “Amazon” will be ok.

Of course the retired boomer Trump supporter comes out in defense of a soulless mega-corporation run by a billionaire elite instead of the working class…

Reply
Mrsgarrett escaped the facility again

Why would they be petitioning for better labor conditions if they don’t work for a living?

Mrs Garett ask your doctor to up your meds.

23
4
Reply

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News