Amazon faces showdown with union chiefs over workers’ rights

By Hannah Boland11 April 2021

Last week, efforts by union organisers fell short. Warehouse workers voted overwhelmingly against forming a union by 1,798 votes to 738, in a move some said could lessen activism elsewhere.

Marcus Courtney, however, does not believe that will be the case. Now a principal at Courtney Public Affairs, he played a key role in trying to unionise Amazon’s call centre staff in 2000. Since then, Amazon has succeeded in pushing back against labour efforts — taking what Courtney describes as an “aggressive” approach to actively discourage workers.


Same as the old boss: How Amazon honed its anti-union bent at a Seattle call center 20 years ago

BY MIKE LEWIS & TODD BISHOP on March 31, 2021 at 1:22 pm 

Among the biggest stories in the country is an effort to unionize Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Ala. The final employee votes have arrived and are in the process of being verified and counted. If the effort is successful, it would be the first unionized workforce in Amazon’s 26-year history.

Enter Marcus Courtney, then a 30-year-old union organizer and WashTech member. He began reaching out and organizing hundreds of Amazon’s call center employees from 1999 to 2000. Now 50 years old and an owner of his own public affairs agency, Courtney Public Affairs, he sees an obvious parallel between what he experienced two decades ago and what he sees in Bessemer today…

Listen to the interview on Geekwire’s Day 2 Podcast Amazon and the future of everything: Inside Amazon’s first union battle.


How Amazon Crushes Unions

By David Streitfeld – Published March 16, 2021 Updated March 29, 2021

In a secret settlement in Virginia, Amazon swore off threatening and intimidating workers. As the company confronts increased labor unrest, its tactics are under scrutiny.

“Twenty years ago, if you asked whether the government or workers should be able to put any constraints on companies, the answer always was ‘No constraints,’” said Marcus Courtney, a labor organizer on the 1999 Amazon campaign. “If companies wanted to push people 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, hats off to them.”


Amazon fights aggressively to defeat union drive in Alabama, fearing a coming wave

By Jay Greene March 9, 2021 – Amazon’s relentless push to beat back a union drive among warehouse workers mirrors the company’s past efforts to oppose unions in Seattle, New York, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Amazon has been fending off unsuccessful union bids for decades. In 2000, the Communications Workers of America tried to persuade 400 Amazon call-center workers in Seattle to unionize. In an era in which Amazon couldn’t pepper workers with texts as it does in Bessemer, managers harangued workers with regular one-on-one meetings, said Marcus Courtney, who worked on the organizing drive. The messages then were the same as now: A union will cost them in terms of dues and the direct line they have with managers.


Amazon has avoided unions for 25 years — here’s why labor leaders think that could soon change

BY MONICA NICKELSBURG on September 4, 2020 at 9:30 am

Amazon landed in hot water this week when job posts revealed apparent details about the company’s strategies for identifying potential union activity in its workforce.

Marcus Courtney is a veteran labor advocate who helped launch the call center campaign. In an interview with GeekWire this week, he said that Amazon is employing the same approaches, 20 years later.

“They always felt that they needed to have a strategy in place to dissuade workers from organized union activity,” he said. “You saw that in 2000. That’s what they did in 2000, that’s the seed that took hold then, and that has continued with the latest revelation.”



King County Council members urge Inslee to issue executive order to cover COVID-19 medical bills for uninsured or underinsured patients

JUNE 19, 2020   

Five King County Councilmembers – Girmay Zahilay, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Rod Dembowski, Dave Upthegrove, and Joe McDermott – sent a letter to Gov. Inslee today urging him to issue an executive order to guarantee Washington State will pay for any COVID-19 related medical bills for underinsured or uninsured Washingtonians who do not receive federal assistance from the CARES Act.

Courtney Public Affairs
May 4, 2020

State-wide leaders urge Gov. Inslee to sign COVID-19 Executive Order on Medical Bankruptcy
Seattle— Activists, community and labor leaders joined together in requesting Gov. Inslee to issue an executive order to pay medical bills for COVID-19 treatment of any uninsured or underinsured person in Washington state in a letter released today.

“It is well-recognized that the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US is unexpected bills due to a medical crisis … As a country we stand alone in the world where someone could face financial ruin for contracting COVID-19,” wrote the petitioners.



Saving Washington: The case for ending COVID-19 medical bankruptcy

In 300 words, community leaders offer ideas to soften the economic blow caused by coronavirus.

The COVID-19 virus is causing Washington’s economy to experience a Hanford-style nuclear plant meltdown for business and workers that could rival the worst months of the Great Depression.



Already, the state’s Employment Security Department has the highest total of jobless claims in one week, 181,975, since its creation in 1930.


PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire—The night before the New Hampshire primary, Jackie Caron arrived early at a downtown Unitarian church to see Elizabeth Warren give one last stump speech in the state.

Marcus Courtney, who flew into New Hampshire from Seattle last week to volunteer for Warren, said that Warren is “one of the top two” for many undecided voters he has spoken with in the state.


GM layoffs are only the beginning of disruptions in AI revolution

Special to The Times

The “future of work” is increasingly in the news, as people try to guess when advances in technology will replace workers on a mass scale. That discussion often leaves the impression that the impacts will be felt far in the future, some 20 years or more from now.

As someone who has spent nearly 20 years exploring the connection among labor, politics and technology, I can tell you that workers are already feeling the impact of artificial intelligence, big data and robots, thanks in part to climate change.

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