Archive for Wednesday, December 6, 2000

Union targets e-commerce warehouse

Organizers take aim at Amazon.com

December 6, 2000

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— This is not exactly the Third World, but union organizers say Amazon.com's decision to open a distribution center in Coffeyville has the same effect.

However, some southeast Kansas residents say $9 an hour is a good wage in their region.

"My guess is that's part of why Amazon came here. This isn't strong union country."

Mike Blake, union representative, Cherryvale

"My guess is that's part of why Amazon came here," said Mike Blake, who represents unionized metal trades workers at Cooperative Refineries in nearby Cherryvale. "This isn't strong union country."

Coffeyville is home to one of eight Amazon distribution centers operated by the Seattle-based Internet retailer. The 750,000 square-foot center opened in April 1999 and employs about 500 workers. It is the community's second-largest employer.

Workers start at $9 an hour, about $4 less than counterparts in Seattle. It's a competitive wage in Montgomery County, where the unemployment rate is 5 percent.

National union organizers say their efforts are being hampered by anti-union activity by Amazon managers. But one analyst does not downplay geographical differences.

"Amazon hasn't chosen to put its distribution plants in places like Coffeyville for nothing," said Daniel Ries, a dot-com analyst with C.E. Unterberg, Towbin in New York City. "Labor costs are a factor in deciding where to put jobs."

Workers nationwide are threatening holiday disruptions to persuade Amazon to grant demands for a union contract. A union spokesman said efforts in Coffeyville were just getting started.

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