Bill de Blasio

Bill DeBlasio Says Amazon's Anti-Union Stance Is From 'Another Time'

But history suggests he's the anachronism.



New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says Amazon workers should try to unionize because their employer is on the wrong side of history—although history suggests he's the one who is out of step with the times.

"I think their stance on unionization reflects a different time," de Blasio told reporters this week, according to The Wall Street Journal. "Now that people are more and more concerned about decent wages and benefits, I think Amazon's gonna have to reconsider that."

If de Blasio wanted to influence Amazon's labor policies, he's probably already missed his best chance to do it: while officials from New York City and New York State were negotiating to handover more than $3 billion in subsidies through a series of state-level tax credits and grants, along with city-level tax incentives.

Now that Amazon is heading to New York, though, de Blasio thinks the company can be convinced to cave to unionization—in the same way that public pressure helped convince the tech giant to up its minimum wage to $15 per hour last year. "Amazon felt a tremendous amount of pressure nationally and gave in on the $15 minimum wage before we got to this deal," de Blasio told the Journal. "I felt strongly if they came here, the pressure to unionize deeply would win the day."

Except, well, there's not really a lot of evidence to support that idea.

For starters, the comparison to the $15 minimum wage is misleading. It wasn't really public pressure that got Amazon to up what it pays its more than 250,000 American workers. It was good old supply and demand.

As New York Magazine put it in October: "With the unemployment rate sitting below 4 percent, and the holiday season on the horizon, U.S. retailers are in fierce competition for staff. Amazon plans to hire 100,000 seasonal employees—as does UPS, while FedEx is looking for 55,000. Meanwhile, Amazon's retail competitors have been lifting their starting wages—with Target's recently rising to $15, Costco's to $14, and Walmart's to $11."

And, as Wired noted around the same time, putting more money in the pockets of Amazon workers makes a lot of sense for Amazon, since many of those employees will end up spending that extra cash on items purchased from—yep—Amazon.

If widespread public criticism of Amazon's low pay was a factor in the company's decision to hike wages, it's really best to think of that as an additional factor in labor market. In other words, in a tight labor market where workers have more leverage in choosing where they want to work, negative press about Amazon might encourage some workers to choose not to work there—and, by extension, the goodwill generated by stories about higher pay (as well as the higher pay itself) gives Amazon an advantage in landing scarce labor.

When it comes to unionization at Amazon, though, de Blasio might want to take a look at the rate of unionization over the past 35 years before he goes spouting off about non-unionized workplaces being an anachronism.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

There are surely many reasons for the decline in private sector unionization in America, but most of them have to do with the fact that jobs today provide better pay, shorter hours, and greater degrees of physical safety than during the peak times of unionization. Once you've checked those boxes, there's fewer reasons for workers to join a union and limit their individual control over employment issues.

Instead of trying to insert his political views into the relationship between Amazon and its employees, de Blasio should have done a better job of preventing Amazon from raiding New York's treasury.

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  1. What? you believe lying statistics over a socialist government functionary?
    Welcome to the revolution.

    1. +1 Prince

      Sorry, wrong revolution.

  2. It’d be interesting to know why Bezos chose a woke Progressive shithole like New York if he’s really trying to escape the woke Progressive shithole that Seattle has become. Does he have inside information that Seattle is getting worse? I’d have thought Houston would have been far more practical.

    Nevertheless, he’s decided to get in bed with Blasios, let him deal with it.

    Ooohh …. I wonder if his soon-to-be-ex factors into this, if he’s trying to make the stock value dive before the divorce, then later he’ll back out of the New York deal when negotiations fall through.

  3. My god that guy is dumb.

  4. wrong side of history

    the lefts rebuttal to everything

    1. Wrong side of ‘their version’ of history.

      Which means it’s fake.

  5. Hmm, so is Jeff Bezos the Man That Folded Himself? Would explain a lot.

    1. I still need to finish that book.

  6. Somebody needs to take de Blasio hunting. Or maybe deep sea fishing.

    1. Ha, nice. He is probably scared of trees.

  7. Where I work there are unions and one of them “represents” me even though I pay no dues or fees to them whatsoever. I do get the emails though. There was recently a dispute over changes in the pay scales that would put caps on some (overpaid IMO) positions to where they wouldn’t be getting any raises unless the pay grade itself was shifted upward. They lost bigly because they had no legal leverage whatsoever to make any changes. Then a few weeks after emails detailing this whole affair an email came out talking about an increase in dues. I just shook my head. So the union did jack squat for anyone, much less the people who pay them dues, and they have the balls to raise the dues on these suckers? I hope some people clued in and left the union after that.

    1. A group of olde tyme union men are grabbing their olde tyme cloth caps and rolling up their old tyme shirt sleeves to go out for a good olde tyme effort to convince their erstwhile comrades to reconsider, perhaps?

  8. Here’s something that cops could use instead of tazers.

    Of course it’s not as fun as shocking someone to near death, so it will never be implemented.

  9. “Bill DeBlasio Says Amazon’s Anti-Union Stance Is From ‘Another Time'”

    Along about 2050 or so

  10. I love Reason, but I hate those misleading graphs that don’t have the bottom axis at zero.

  11. People who use the term “wrong side of history” are almost always on the “wrong side of history”.

    It’s like the progs I know who constantly use the term empathy, yet they are the least empathetic person you’d ever meet. How they use the term compassion, yet they are the least compassionate people you’d ever meet. How they constantly use the word justice (social justice, economic justice, environmental justice, etc), and all of their values are extremely unjust and bigoted.

  12. De Blasio is still On the Water Front.

    He coulda been a contender.

  13. I would be more impressed with DeBlasio’s opinion if he didn’t suffer from the delusion that he was Fiorello La Guardia.

    1. That was from a different time.

  14. My dad used to work in a union shop (UAW). A legitimate one man process was turned into a three man job. He advised the union was biting off more than could chew but the plant owners appeased the workers. Then during an economic downturn the UAW advised the workers to strike. Keep in mind these guys had one of if not the highest paid blue collar gigs in the county. On average these guys were pulling in $4-5+ more per hour than every other factory in town. Economy is tanking and these guys go on strike. Plant owners opted for temp workers and ultimately locked the UAW workers out. They finally bit off more than they could chew. My old man knew it was going to happen. Luckily, he had moved on by then.

    The first job I have was bagging groceries at Kroger. I was obligated to join the Food Workers Union in order to be hired. Union dues were deducted from each check. I was paid minimum wage, a union steward never visited the store nor did I even receive union literature. What the hell was I paying dues for?

    1. the mafia.

      No seriously, Unions are organized crime. You have no right to tell me I have to pay you money in order to work for someone else.

      1. Government protected organized crime.

    2. There was a good produce ‘manager’ at the local Safeway many years back; he was good at it. One day I walked in, asking about tomatoes or some such and he said he was going to be re-hired as a ATC after he’d been fired by Reagan years ago.
      He was lucky not to get that tomato jammed in his face; sorry he didn’t end up driving a cab.

    3. I had a similar situation, paid union dues for 2 years to make a whole 25 cents over minimum. Halfway through we voted on a new contract that gutted benefits and protections for part time workers. Not that it mattered, the union never defended PT employees anyway when the store managers violated the contract (having to work after close, having to work shifts alone, not getting 15 hours a week, etc)

      The first time I met our union rep was the day I got fired because another employee assaulted me in the parking, she had come out to inform me the union would not be defending me

  15. “Bill DeBlasio Says Amazon’s Anti-Union Stance Is From ‘Another Time'”

    About 1875. Too bad the graph doesn’t go back to 1900, but Reason’s writers seem ignorant of anything that happened before they were born.

    1. That’s silly.

      First, unionization fights were later than that, so no.

      Second, Anti-Union is very much of the modern era for an employer. It is only in the halls of government that unions are still viewed as a way to control a workforce.

  16. If de Blasio had any understanding of business, he would be in a productive sector of society instead of a fucking tax leech.

    1. “If de Blasio had any understanding of business, he would be in a productive sector of society instead of a fucking tax leech.”
      In CA, you can include moonbeam, Newsom, Feinstein, Pelosi, Breed (SF Mayor), Willie Brown, Harris, and probably many more.
      Not a one of them ever worked for a living; they have sucked at the public trough since day one.

  17. OK, not a mature concept yet:
    The intent requires anyone sucking from the public teat to have worked for some period of time in an environment where you can easily get fired for bone-head moves or pissing off the customers.
    The “Safeway” rule? Work at least a year in a grocery store as a checker?
    Help me out here, folks…

  18. That graph is somewhat misleading.

    The y axis goes from 10 to 20%, not zero to 100%.

    So instead of showing a staggering drop from what the eyeball test says is over 90% to less than 5%, it shows a drop from a little less than 20% to a little more than 10%.

    Which is still quite the dramatic trend and worth discussing. I would have guessed more than 20% unionization for the past high, and might have guessed less than 10% now, excepting the high number of government workers these days.

  19. Commies have such punchable faces.

  20. Amazon got a big dose of corporate welfare but will they regret going to the People’s Republic on NYC? They may have accepted a Trojan Horse.

  21. de Blasio should have done a better job of preventing Amazon from raiding New York’s treasury

    Now hold on. Amazon did not “raid” anything. How about “de Blasio should have done a better job of not tripping over himself to hand out other people’s money.”

  22. Good article, but I’ve got a serious complaint. In the graphic you suppressed the zero on the y axis, making it look like union membership has dropped nearly to zero for those who aren’t paying close attention. It’s a bad practice to suppress the zero and that is often used to try to misinform people. It happens all the time in articles about a variety of topics from climate change to crime rates. Whenever I see this method used my trust in the author immediately drops.

  23. More disturbing than the misleading graph is the the author’s seeming agreement with Wired that paying its workers more will be beneficial to Amazon because those workers will spend more on Amazon products. Care to show some numbers to back that claim? Of course not, because it’s ludicrous.

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