business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From the Washington Post:

"The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint on Wednesday alleging that Amazon CEO Andy Jassy violated labor law in two interviews he gave this year where he discussed his stance on unions at the e-commerce giant.

"Jassy’s comments were made after workers in Staten Island voted to organize in April with the Amazon Labor Union, the first warehouse of the e-commerce giant to do so. This year, the NLRB has repeatedly found Amazon to have violated workers’ rights during a handful of unionization campaigns.

"The Amazon Labor Union praised the NLRB’s decision to file a complaint.

"'These plutocrats will no longer threaten workers in interviews with the media,' said attorney Seth Goldstein, who filed the charge on behalf of the Amazon Labor Union. 'They’re being held accountable.'

"Kelly Nantel, a spokesperson for Amazon, said that the allegations were without merit and that Jassy’s comments are protected by the National Labor Relations Act and decades of NLRB precedent."

I read those interviews, and they didn't sound threatening to me … frankly, the union rhetoric sounds a lot more inflammatory to me. (Jassy isn't allowed to argue that he thinks workers are better off having a direct relationship with their employer?).  I'm not a lawyer nor a union expert, but I cannot understand how we've gotten to the point where the unions have the ability to say pretty much anything they want, but management isn't allowed to say anything … and I make that point as someone who is moderately sympathetic to the unions that are facing off against Amazon.  But give me a break.

•  From the Seattle Times:

"Starbucks’ $1 billion commitment to expand benefits for workers at nonunionized stores is under scrutiny this week.

"A National Labor Relations Board hearing is expected to determine by Friday whether Starbucks can offer more benefits to Seattle employees depending on a store’s union status.

"Starbucks acted against labor law by extending benefits to nonunionized stores only, an NLRB complaint claims. 

"At the hearing in Seattle that began Tuesday, union lawyers brought to the forefront the question after months of Starbucks announcing several extended benefits, such as wage increases and more tipping options, to nonunion employees … The union is arguing that, by withholding the benefits, Starbucks is discouraging union activity and breaking labor law."

The Times writes that "Starbucks asked the NLRB to dismiss the case Tuesday, saying that the company has the right to 'not grant enhanced wages and benefits to partners at nonunion stores while a petition for representation is pending at any store.' As of Wednesday, the motion to dismiss has not been discarded."

Again, I'm neither a lawyer nor a labor expert, but I don't understand the union's point on this one.  Union representation means that the company has to engage in collective bargaining, right?  And can't just impose changes in wages, benefits and work rules without talking to the union?  The union would not want Starbucks to take something away from employees who are represented, and so it may have to live with the idea that it also cannot give something to non-represented workers.  At the very least, this seems logical … though I guess we'll find out how logical the legal system is.