On March 11, 2022, Amazon announced a new policy on freedom of association under international standards. Citing International Labor Organization and United Nations principles, Amazon pledged to comply with global norms on union organizing and collective bargaining, even when national labor law reflects a “gap in governance” with international standards.
This assessment shows that Amazon’s freedom of association policy, on its face, is non-compliant with international labor standards, and Amazon management’s conduct before and after issuing the policy continues to violate international standards.
Non-compliant on its face
Amazon’s March 11th statement on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining contains no specific references to ILO Conventions 87 and 98, which are the foundation of international freedom of association standards. It makes no reference to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and OECD policy prescriptions urging “a positive approach towards the activities of trade unions and an open attitude towards organizational activities of workers.”
Rather than embracing global norms, Amazon’s March 11th policy statement promotes its preferred “direct” (i.e., non-union) relationship with employees, marked by various open-door forums in which workers remain subordinate, dependent, vulnerable, and powerless before Amazon management. In contrast, international standards protect workers’ rights to independently choose their own organizations and their own leaders to engage in arms-length collective bargaining with employers and to defend employees against management mistreatment.