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Cincinnati officials support Amazon Air unionization effort

Ann Thompson

Cincinnati City Council and Mayor Aftab Pureval are asking Amazon to support employees trying to form a union at the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport. The Amazon Air Hub at CVG is the company's largest in the world.

Council unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday to support the effort.

"There are 4,500 workers who work at that facility, many of whom live in Cincinnati and commute there," said Council Member Mark Jeffreys, who proposed the resolution. "Their success means more success for us as a city and as a region."

The workers are demanding a $30 hourly starting wage, up from $19.50, 180 hours of paid time off, and union representation at disciplinary meetings.

Griffin Ritze is a cargo tractor operator and member of the union organizing committee.

"We're happy to have the support of the Council in Cincinnati," Ritze said. "It's really important that the entire labor movement, locally and nationally, takes a real role in fighting for this for this union at [CVG] and for unions at Amazon around the country."

Mayor Pureval sent a letter to Director of Operations Adrian Melendez earlier this week, supporting the union efforts.

"I am proud of the work that Amazon has contributed to Greater Cincinnati, and I look forward to the workers having a permanent voice in the workplace for a more equitable, just, and sustainable future," he wrote.

Speaking at City Council on Wednesday, Pureval expanded his message: "To any employer in our region or across the country, I urge them to provide a neutral ground to empower their workers to make that decision for themselves."

Amazon Spokesperson Eileen Hards declined an interview, but said in a statement all employees — including those at CVG — have the choice of whether or not to join a union.

"But the benefits of direct relationships between managers and employees can’t be overstated — these relationships allow every KCVG employee’s voice to be heard, not just the voices of a select few," Hards said. "While we’re always listening and looking at ways to improve, we remain proud of the competitive pay, comprehensive benefits, and engaging, safe work experience we provide our KCVG team."

Ritze says the organizing committee is gearing up for the next phase of the campaign, which launched in November.

In the meantime, he says Amazon has ramped up union-busting tactics. Ritze says this is "firing season" at Amazon, company wide.

"Instead of taking a hit in the press for laying off hundreds and thousands of workers companywide after peak season, at the site level, management clamps down on minor safety infractions, minor time violations, in order to effectively layoff hundreds and thousands of workers," he said.

Ritze says a union would mean workers have representation in disciplinary meetings.

"Talking to coworkers who have been at Amazon for two, three, five-plus years — they've never seen this aggressive of a firing season at Amazon," he said. "Our union drive is obviously a factor in that."

He says 150 workers have been fired since Jan. 1. Several fired workers have filed appeals hoping to be reinstated.

"The claim that we have fired 150 employees in 2023 is false and, in fact, we’re hiring now and offering a $125 referral bonus to our team if they help out," said Amazon spokesperson Eileen Hards in a statement. "Like any employer, we ask our employees to meet certain minimum expectations and take appropriate and consistent action if they’re unable to do that. But we spend most of our energy working to accommodate our team’s needs, providing them with support and coaching, and working with them to make Amazon a great place to be."

Read the mayor's full letter of support below:

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.