Amazon workers arrive with paperwork to organize at the NLRB office in Brooklyn, New York, on October 25, 2021.
Brendan Mcdermid | Reuters
Top working groups and political action committees are distancing themselves from a major Democratic pollster after it was revealed that the company was working on Amazon’s anti-labor efforts at a warehouse on Staten Island in New York.
In late March, CNBC reported that Amazon used Global Strategy Group, an influential polling and consulting firm, to help campaign material at several Staten Island facilities, including JFK8, the site of a successful union earlier this month.
GSG is well known on Capitol Hill and in democratic political circles. It served as the polling partner for a pro-Biden super PAC ahead of the 2020 election and maintains a high-profile list of political and corporate clients, including Google and Facebook.
“This is really, really disgusting,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, wrote in a tweet after CNBC’s story was published.
As a sign of solidarity with the Amazon Labor Union and a strengthening labor movement more broadly, AFT and several of GSG’s other former customers are distancing themselves from the company and promising not to deal with it in the future. It all follows a campaign that ultimately did not pay off.
On April 1, the JFK8 poll showed that employees by a large margin voted to become unions the first time it happened at an Amazon facility in the United States. A week later, Amazon objected to the National Labor Relations Board, arguing the election process was tainted.
President Joe Biden, who promised to be “the most pro-union president,” expressed his support for union efforts at Amazon on April 6, noting, “By the way, Amazon, here we come. See.”
GSG initially tried to keep its work with Amazon quiet. But in the face of setbacks from customers, the company now apologizes for working on the campaign.
“Although there have been factual inaccuracies in recent reports about our work for Amazon, it was a mistake to be involved in any way, but we have terminated that work and we are deeply saddened,” said Tanya Meck, a partner and CEO of GSG. in a statement.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A movement with momentum
Among the groups that sever ties with GSG is Service Employees International Union, one of the largest unions in the country. SEIU has spent $ 1.74 million on GSG’s services since 2005, according to the Department of Labor. As recently as last year, SEIU GSG paid $ 66,500 for voter voting services, registrations show.
An SEIU spokesman told CNBC that the union’s national office will not hire GSG in the future.
Weingarten said AFT, which has not worked with GSG for several years, will not return as a customer. The Department of Labor records show that AFT paid GSG about $ 160,000 for voting and consulting services between 2013 and 2014.
“There are many consultants who have consistently supported the rights of those who work hard for their livelihoods – people like teachers, bus drivers, nurses and Amazon workers – to have a voice on the job,” Weingarten said in a statement. “We want to work with the people who did not need to be reminded that it is good for business to work for working people.”
Trade unions are not the only customers who are bored. The League of Conservation Voters, a political action committee and environmental advocate group, said it was “re-evaluating how this news may affect future plans.” And the Democratic parties in Nevada and Iowa, where various Democratic candidates have employed the GSG in recent years, said they will not turn to the GSG in the future.
“We are proud to stand with our unions and the working people of our country, and we were outraged to hear about GSG’s involvement in trade union abolition,” a Nevada State Democratic Party representative said in an email. “As a result of what we have discovered, we will not work with them in the future.”
CNBC reached out to about a dozen politicians and PACs listed as GSG clients in applications to the Federal Election Commission. None of the elected representatives made comments.
Of the working groups CNBC contacted, only one, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners, said they would continue working with GSG.
GSG started in 1995 as a boutique polling company and has since expanded to provide research, public relations and consulting services. According to its website, “the company led polls for dozens of winning campaigns and political organizations in 2018 and 2020 to secure today’s Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.”
GSG was the voting partner for Priorities USA, a super PAC that supported Biden, and has worked for Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York; Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Ed Markey of Massachusetts. A decade ago, that hired Jen Psaki, who is now Biden’s White House Press Secretary.
Amazon’s techniques for blowing up unions on Staten Island included wall-up banners that read “Vote No,” the creation of an anti-union Web site – unpackjfk8.com – and displaying presentations that workers had to sit through at meetings.
Last week, Amazon Labor Union filed charges of unfair work practices with the NLRB, accusing Amazon and GSG of interfering in employees’ right to organize.
Amazon has fought aggressively to also strike back at unions elsewhere, especially in Bessemer, Alabama, where workers just finished another union vote after the first vote failed last year. Recent elections were closer, and so many votes are being challenged that the outcome is still in doubt.
Warehouse workers across the Amazon intensified their activism during the Covid-19 pandemic, demanding safer working conditions and better pay. Top Democrats across the country have rallied behind their cause.
“Fantastic work by the worker-led @AmazonLabor in Staten Island, “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York wrote in a tweet after the votes were counted.” Congratulations on the historic victory! And good luck, as you move on to the contract. “
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