Three US unions pull out of consumer group over Amazon funding

Three major unions have quit the board of the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, claiming funding from Inc. has compromised the group’s progressive mission.

In separate letters last month, the presidents of the United Food & Commercial Workers, the Communications Workers of America and the United Auto Workers wrote that their groups were resigning immediately from their roles on the board of the National Consumers League, citing the Seattle-based e-commerce giant’s involvement with the group.

“Unfortunately, it has become increasingly clear over the last several months that NCL leadership now prioritizes donations from anti-worker companies like Amazon ahead of its historic pro-labor and pro-consumer mission,” the presidents of the CWA and UFCW wrote.

The auto workers’ president said in the union’s letter that the consumer group’s “decisions around partnering with Amazon and the subsequent board discussions” had left it with no other choice but to resign.

NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg declined to comment, saying in an email that it was “an internal board matter.”

Founded in 1899, NCL says on its website that the group’s official mission is “to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad.”

The board chair is a representative of the Service Employees International Union and one of the vice chairs comes from the AFL-CIO. Spokespeople for Amazon, SEIU, and the AFL-CIO didn’t immediately respond Friday to requests for comment.

Amazon’s rapid growth, its expansion into sectors like grocery stores and parcel delivery, and its aggressive and successful efforts to defeat unionization efforts among its workers have made it a primary target and antagonist of the U.S. labor movement and progressive politicians allied with it.

NCL’s donors last year included tech, finance, aviation, and pharmaceutical companies as well as unions and law firms, according to its 2020 annual report, which noted it had “supported union organizing and minimum wage increases in states across the country.”

In March, the nonprofit organization issued a measured statement regarding the unionization election then-under way among Amazon warehouse employees in Bessemer, Alabama.

NCL said at the time that it supported workers’ right to unionize, that employees were “seeking a stronger voice” on issues such as productivity expectations and that it hoped the company would honor the choice its workers made.

“We have partnered with Amazon on issues of great import to consumers, including fighting fraud and supporting financial literacy for teens and appreciate the company’s dedication to those concerns and its pledge to support a $15 an hour minimum wage nationally,” NCL said in the same statement.

Amazon employees voted against unionization, but a National Labor Relations Board hearing officer has said that result should be thrown out due to misconduct by the company. Amazon has denied wrongdoing.

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