Amazon Air Hub Joins Forces with National Amazon Labor Union, Announces Card Campaign | Northern Kentucky News | Cincinnati

click to enlarge Amazon Air Hub union organizer Griffin Ritze addresses a crowd of Air Hub workers and supporters during a March 18 rally. - Photo: Aidan Mahoney

Photo: Aidan Mahoney

Amazon Air Hub union organizer Griffin Ritze addresses a crowd of Air Hub workers and supporters during a March 18 rally.

Union organizers at the Amazon Air Hub located just outside of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (the Air Hub is often referred to as “KCVG”) announced the start of a union authorization card-collection campaign with the help of the broader Amazon Labor Union (ALU).

During a March 18 rally outside the Air Hub training center entrance in Florence, Kentucky, around 60 workers and supporters gathered to rally behind the card campaign announcement. Some carried signs that said “UNION YES!” and “Unionize Amazon Everywhere.” Organizers flashed their signs to passing cars and trucks, some honking in support, including three Amazon Prime delivery trucks.

The rally, which was open to the public, was planned to take place in the facility’s parking lot, but site security blocked off the entrance near the road to anyone who was not an Air Hub worker.

click to enlarge Workers and supporters of Amazon's Air Hub facility in Northern Kentucky rally for support of a growing union effort at the facility. - Photo: Aidan Mahoney

Photo: Aidan Mahoney

Workers and supporters of Amazon’s Air Hub facility in Northern Kentucky rally for support of a growing union effort at the facility.

Griffin Ritze, an Air Hub employee and union organizer, said the Air Hub workers will need help from the public to successfully unionize.

“It’s going to take the entire labor movement, it’s going to take everyone out here today and much more,” Ritze said through a megaphone.

If enough KCVG employees sign a union authorization card, the next step would be an election held by the National Labor Relations Board where KCVG workers could vote to formally unionize. A win would mean the company would be required to engage in good-faith talks about the union’s demands, though Amazon could try to fight a win in court.

“The launch of card collection at KCVG is a moment of historic significance, not just for the unionization of Amazon but for the wider labor movement. If the campaign at KCVG is successful, it will only be the second unionized Amazon facility in the country, and it will concretely demonstrate a method to building a labor movement that can unionize all of Amazon and beyond,” said KCVG organizer Greyson Van Arsdale.

What the union wants

Organizers are demanding a $30 hourly wage for all of the Air Hub’s 4,000 employees, as well as 180 hours of paid time off and union representation at disciplinary hearings. KCVG is the first Air Hub to publicly organize in the country.

Air Hub employees started union efforts in November after upper management announced there would be no peak pay for the 2022 holiday rush. Peak pay in 2021 was an extra $2 per hour. Workers spoke with CityBeat in December about challenges of working during the holiday season when Amazon package volumes swell and employees were required to perform mandatory overtime with a freeze on paid time off.

click to enlarge Amazon Air Hub union organizer Griffin Ritze addresses a crowd of Air Hub workers and supporters during a March 18 rally. - Photo Aidan Mahoney

Photo Aidan Mahoney

Amazon Air Hub union organizer Griffin Ritze addresses a crowd of Air Hub workers and supporters during a March 18 rally.

Help from the ALU

Chris Smalls is the president of the ALU and successfully led the effort to organize the Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, along with ALU vice president Derrick Palmer. It’s Amazon’s first and only location to win a union election, but Smalls urged the crowd of Air Hub workers and supporters to keep pushing the union effort at KCVG.

click to enlarge Amazon Labor Union president Chris Smalls speaks to a crowd of Amazon Air Hub workers and supporters as police officers standby to keep the rally from advancing closer to the facility. - Photo: Aidan Mahoney

Photo: Aidan Mahoney

Amazon Labor Union president Chris Smalls speaks to a crowd of Amazon Air Hub workers and supporters as police officers standby to keep the rally from advancing closer to the facility.

“I was an entry-level worker when I got hired at Amazon in 2015. I was making $12.75. I know the ins and outs of this company, I know what you guys go through on a daily basis, I know the grievances, I know the hardships,” Smalls said to the crowd, police officers standing by in case organizers tried to advance closer to the facility. “You are the ones that deserve the money we make this company. We have to fight for it, they’re not going to give it to us.”

Palmer spoke with CityBeat ahead of the March 18 announcement, saying the ALU tries to help support other Amazon warehouses that are organizing across the country, but this is their first time helping to organize an Air Hub.

“That’s why we’re going out there, to understand the dynamics of what’s going on. The workers, the ones who are actually working at the Air Hub, are the experts. We’re learning,” Palmer said.

Amazon warns KCVG employees about union organizers

On Friday, Amazon sent all KCVG Air Hub employees a text message that warned employees to protect their “personal information” from union organizers.

“It’s important to remember you have no obligation to speak to any person or group, including a union organizer,” the company said in a statement linked in the text message.

click to enlarge Workers and supporters of Amazon's Air Hub facility in Northern Kentucky rally for support of a growing union effort at the facility. - Photo: Aidan Mahoney

Photo: Aidan Mahoney

Workers and supporters of Amazon’s Air Hub facility in Northern Kentucky rally for support of a growing union effort at the facility.

Mary Kate Paradis, a public relations manager for Amazon, told CityBeat that the company’s position and statement on the union effort has been the same since day one.

“Our employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union. They always have. As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees. Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work,” Paradis reiterated.

Amazon has been sending warning signs to its KCVG employees about unionizing since the start of the union effort. In November, Amazon started posting physical and digital signs around the KCVG facility that warned employees of “third parties” trying to get their personal information. Organizers said the signs were meant to give employees a false impression of what a union does.

Amazon responded to CityBeat’s request for comment on the posters in November, saying, “We share this information because we believe it’s important that everyone understands the facts about joining a union.”

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