Amazon Was Holding Talks Wednesday to Make NYC Deal Happen

Stuart Appelbaum speaks during a protest against Amazon in New York, on Jan. 30. Photographer: Sangsuk Sylvia Kang/Bloomberg

A day before they announced their intention to cancel a planned headquarters in New York City, Inc. executives were still talking to state and union officials in a bid to salvage plans for a planned headquarters in Long Island City. At least one union leader said the framework of a deal had been reached. 

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, said that the meeting took place in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office and included four Amazon officials and the presidents of the New York State AFL-CIO, a regional chapter of the Teamsters and his group, as well as some officials from the governor’s office. Cuomo suggested a process to address labor concerns with the project.

“We all agreed to it, and we said the next step was to start drafting language and getting our wordsmiths involved,” Appelbaum said Thursday. “We all agreed it was a productive meeting, and so we were amazed that Jeff Bezos would decide to just cancel— to announce today that he’s canceling the project.”

Amazon did not immediately respond to an email asking for comment.

Appelbaum said the union and Amazon officials present, including public policy vice president Brian Huseman, agreed in principle to terms under which Amazon workers could have “fair elections” about whether to unionize, including a ban on retaliation against workers for supporting the union, avenues for the union to communicate with workers, and a prohibition on “hostility” from either side. Huseman had previously told a New York City Council meeting the company would oppose unionization attempts.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi didn’t immediately return a phone call and text message seeking comment on Appelbaum’s characterization of the meeting. The Teamsters union and the AFL-CIO confirmed attending the meeting.

“At a meeting yesterday with Amazon officials, progress was being made to address outstanding issues,” said N.Y. State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento in an email. “Unfortunately and surprisingly, Amazon abruptly turned their backs. An opportunity for thousands of jobs was lost.” DM


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