business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  The Verge reports that Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, "in an all-hands meeting with employees," made the following comment about unionization:

"“One of the things that’s unique about Amazon is that we have unusual empowerment for our employees.  If they see something they can do better for customers — or just for themselves — to get together, get in a room, decide to change it, and change it, and do it quickly. We encourage that type of speed. You know, you’re part of the union it’s much slower and much more bureaucratic, much harder to do that … (When) you’re part of the union it’s much slower and much more bureaucratic, much harder to do that."

Jassy added:  "We think there’s real value in having a connection between teammates and managers where you build a different type of connectivity, a different type of bond, as opposed to having all of your voice filtered through one person."

I wonder if people working in Amazon's behemoth distribution centers feel that same empowerment, or if it is more available to people further up the food chain at the company.  I actually don't doubt Jassy's sincerity or intentions;  I'm just not sure it accurately reflects reality everywhere in the company.

Jassy also is a little less than credible when he says, "the decision to join a union is employees’ decision. It always has been, and always will be.”

Really?  Because I'm thinking, not so much.

•  From the New York Times this morning:

"Employees at an Apple store in Atlanta filed a petition on Wednesday to hold a union election. If successful, the workers could form the first union at an Apple retail store in the United States.

"The move continues a recent trend of service-sector unionization in which unions have won elections at Starbucks, Amazon and REI locations.

"The workers are hoping to join the Communications Workers of America, which represents workers at companies like AT&T Mobility and Verizon, and has made a concerted push into the tech sector in recent years.  The union says that about 100 workers at the store — at Cumberland Mall, in northwest Atlanta — are eligible to vote, including salespeople and repair technicians, and that over 70 percent of them have signed authorization cards indicating their support."

The union, according to the Times, says that "Apple, like other tech employers, had effectively created a tiered work force that denied retail workers the pay, benefits and respect that workers earned at its corporate offices.  Workers said they loved working at Apple but sometimes felt they were treated like second-class employees."

I wonder how many other retail companies have, without meaning to, have created cultures in which store employees feel like second-class citizens, which belies the reality that they are on the front lines where all the action happens.