In letters to the CEOs of global corporations including Amazon’s Andy Jassey as well as the leaders of DoorDash and Walmart, Olivier De Schutter, the UN-appointed authority on extreme poverty and human rights, is seeking explanations about allegations of “inadequate pay, aggressive union-busting tactics, and the misclassification of workers as ‘independent contractors.”
De Schutter voiced his alarm, stating, “I am extremely disturbed that workers in some of the world’s most profitable companies – in one of the richest countries on earth – are struggling to afford to eat or pay their rent,” said Mr. De Schutter.
“Violations of workers’ rights are violations of human rights, and it is encouraging to see a UN independent expert holding some of the worst offenders accountable,” Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union in response to these letters. “Whether it’s the right to organize or the right to a safe job, Amazon’s track record in the United States is abysmal, but unfortunately, they’ve exported their brutal business model around the world. That is why there is a growing movement to make Amazon respect unions and pay a decent wage.”
Citing a recent UN report highlighting the increasing number of “working poor” in the United States, De Schutter expressed concern over the prevalence of non-standard employment contracts contributing to in-job poverty. He also referenced a US government study which identified the three companies as top employers of individuals using government-based medical and food aids. “Jobs are supposed to provide a pathway out of poverty, yet in all three companies the business model seems to be to shift operating costs onto the public by relying on government benefits to supplement miserably low wages,” he said.
Further, De Schutter pointed out the challenges faced by Amazon and Walmart employees in bargaining for better wages, attributing it to the companies’ union-busting tactics. These corporations are reportedly investing heavily to thwart employee unionization efforts. The expert remarked, “According to the information received, Amazon has a long history of antiunion action at warehouses. This includes constant and continuous anti-union messaging to workers at its “captive audience meetings”, aggressive objection to election outcomes, and a narrative that workers will be better off dealing directly with Amazon rather than through a union.”
Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are nominated by the UN Human Rights Council to scrutinize and report on specific human rights topics or nation-specific situations.