A prominent Democratic Party-aligned political consulting firm violated federal labor law by failing to divulge its work for Amazon, The Indypendent has learned.
Global Strategy Group (GSG) began assisting Amazon in late 2021 in designing their anti-union messaging ahead of the recent union election at the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island, according to CNBC. A review of Department of Labor records shows GSG has not filed an LM20 form as mandated by the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMDRA) which requires companies that provide labor relations services to report that assistance within 30 days of entering into an agreement with the employer.
The LMRDA also requires employers to report the hiring of consultants within 90 days of the end of the filer’s fiscal year. However, Amazon did not submit the form, known as an LM10, in the first three months of 2022.
The Department of Labor requires these forms because “with the knowledge that the source of the information received is an anti-union campaign managed by an outsider, workers will be better able to assess the merits of the arguments directed at them and make an informed choice about how to exercise their rights,” says its website.
“I have no idea — if what they’re doing is legitimate — that they just don’t go through the process, like everybody else,” said Seth Goldstein, pro-bono attorney for the Amazon Labor Union of GSG’s failure to abide by transparency rules.
The penalties for breaking these disclosure laws amount to a slap on the wrist, Goldstein said. “This is why we need administrative reform” in labor law, he added.
Founded in 1995 as a polling firm, GSG has become an all-purpose political consulting shop that has provided services to a number of leading national Democrats including President Joe Biden and Senators Joe Manchin, Ed Markey and Kirsten Gillibrand. It also has worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Governors Association and for New York politicians including Gov. Kathy Hochul, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James.
CNBC’s report, which drew on information provided by an anonymous whistleblower, asserts that GSG created anti-union videos and flyers and its representatives attended captive audience meetings “where it’s a pure anti-union meeting,” Karen Ponce, secretary of the ALU, told The Indy. “They make sure that each worker has been in one of those meetings seven times.”
GSG did not reply to multiple requests to comment from The Indy. It previously denied the allegations in CNBC’s report.
Goldstein has filed 40 Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges with the NLRB about “Amazon’s discipline of organizers and anti-union meetings, which violate labor laws,” he wrote in an open letter to JFK8 associates on April 30, the last day of the election.
He told The Indy that Amazon has “unlawfully and repeatedly stated … that if an employee signs an Amazon Labor Union showing of interest card they lose their right to speak to a supervisor about work issues.” Another untruth the company has advanced, Goldstein says, is that if an employee signed an interest card they would have money deducted from their paycheck. In fact, dues deduction can only occur after union members have ratified a collective bargaining agreement
In leaked audio from a March 23 captive-audience meeting reviewed by The Indy, a union avoidance official tells workers they cannot opt out of the union. That is only partially true; Commun. Workers of America v. Beck, a 1988 Supreme Court case, states that workers can partially opt out of private-sector unions. If they disagree with the politics of the union, a member can pay a lesser amount of dues that only cover representation costs.
“The manager says we’re going to training, I’m thinking I’m going to learn a new skill or something I didn’t know,” said Edwin Ortiz Jr., an organizer with the ALU. “They were actually not trainings at all,” he added. “Amazon promotes advertising that says, ‘Keep JFK8 one team. Vote No,’ yet none of the people that were conducting these meetings were from New York City.”
“Amazon pays the people that lead those meetings $3,000-$10,000 a day,” said ALU President Chris Smalls. “We’re going against one of the richest companies in the world and they’re dropping millions of dollars on this anti-union campaign; meanwhile, we’ve spent about $100,000 total in the past year,” added Madeline Wesley, an ALU organizer.
For all the money Amazon spent on GSG and other union avoidance consultants, it didn’t get much for its investment. The ALU won its union election with 55% of the vote.
In response to losing the Staten Island union election, Amazon released a statement claiming, incredibly enough, that it was the victim of an unfair union election.
We’re disappointed with the outcome of the election in Staten Island because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees. We’re evaluating our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB that we and others (including the National Retail Federation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce) witnessed in this election.
Goldstein says he started representing JFK8 workers since ALU’s victory was announced on April 1. “We can’t wait until the election is certified,” he said. “People have problems.”
One day after its election victory ALU released a statement demanding that the company begin collective bargaining in the first week of May.
“I’m ready to deliver a contract. Winning an election was one step, but I want to win a contract so that we can change people’s quality of life,” Smalls told The Indy after ALU’s election victory was announced.
The ALU organizers have their hands full as the roughly 1,500 workers at the LDJ5 warehouse, also in the Staten Island complex, will have their own union vote April 25-29. Whether GSG returns and risks further tarnishing its reputation, remains to be seen.
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