Amazon’s Expanding Michigan Footprint Is Good News Only If Workers Can Unionize, Levin Says

The online retail giant recently announced it will open four new sites across Michigan in the next two years.

Amazon’s footprint in Michigan will soon get much bigger. The online retail giant recently announced it will open four new sites across Michigan in the next two years.

MichMash hosts Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk with Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township) about the move and his concerns for workers and organized labor in Michigan.

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The new Amazon locations heading for Michigan include a 1-million-square-foot fulfillment center in mid-Michigan, near Lansing. And while Amazon is touting the new jobs this could bring to the state, Amazon skeptics including Levin aren’t so sure that’s good news.

“Amazon gobbling up the world, I don’t think is a good thing, whether in Michigan or anywhere else,” Levin says. “We like jobs, we like good jobs, all we need is workers to have the freedom to make their jobs, good jobs by forming unions.”

Levin has spoken out against Amazon’s anti-union stance, especially when workers in Bessemer, Alabama attempted to unionize. That effort ultimately failed, though it could see new life soon. Levin has criticized Amazon for not fostering a safe and stable work environment for its employees.

“What Amazon is doing to work in general is a huge problem for our whole society, the dehumanizing nature of it,” he says.

RelatedAmazon Unionization Vote in Alabama Has Big Implications for Michigan Workers (MichMash)

“So, I think that, really, the issue for people who care about justice and care about workers isn’t trying to stand in front of change and stop it. It’s about change that’s worker centered. Can workers have a say, can workers shape their workplace?”

Levin says workers need to be able to have things like health and safety committees, the ability to raise difficult issues with management without fear of retaliation, and a democratic process in their workplace. That comes with unions, which would make the Amazon jobs good jobs, he says.

“Amazon has crushed attempts to form unions at its facilities and has opposed our Protecting the Right to Organize Act to free workers generally, to have more voice and power at work,” Levin says.

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  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.