If safety was the greatest concern for the technicians, there were also concerns about equal pay – machinists said they received different amounts for the same work – and their lack of control over their fate. Part of Mr. Hough’s pitch was that a union would make management less arbitrary.
“One guy I only remember was his name Bob,” he said. “They took Bob into the control room and the next thing I saw Bob come down the stairs. He had taken off his work vest. I said, “Bob, where are you going?” He said, “You quit me.” I didn’t ask why. It was like this. “
Several technicians said they remembered being told at one meeting, “You are voting for a union, each of you will be looking for a job tomorrow.” In another case, the most outspoken union supporters were described as “Cancer and Disease for Amazon and the Facility,” according to Hough and a union memo. (In a report to the labor authority, Amazon said it had investigated the incident and “determined that it could not be substantiated”.)
Mr. Hough, a cancer survivor, said the reference offended him. He declined to attend another meeting of this manager. He said he definitely knew what she was going to say: that the union was going to cancel the election because it thought it was going to lose. Amazon had won.
On March 30, 2015, Mr. Hough received a written warning from Mr. Frye, his manager.
“Your behavior was rated as negative by colleagues / managers,” it said. “Insubordination” included the refusal to participate in the announcement of the Amazon victory. Another incident, Amazon said, could lead to termination.
The machinists’ union filed a complaint with the labor office in July 2015 alleging unfair labor practices by Amazon, including monitoring, threatening and “informing workers that it would be pointless to vote for union representation”. Mr. Hough spent eight hours that summer giving his testimony. While labor activists and unions in general believe the board is heavily leaned in favor of employers, union officials said a formal protest would at least show the Chester technicians that someone is fighting for them.
At the beginning of 2016, Amazon resigned itself to the board. The main focus of the bilateral agreement was for Amazon to publish an employee notice promising good behavior without admitting anything.