Amazon is offering employees thousands of dollars to permanently quit their jobs in a move which could impact its upcoming landmark union vote.
Amazon has relaunched its “voluntary resignation programme”, which it has been running annually every February since 2014, offering its staff a minimum of $1000 to quit and pursue other career avenues.
According to Motherboard, this programme could significantly disrupt an upcoming union vote at its warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, which could mark the first time in Amazon’s history US workers have gained official representation.
Amazon has not been shy about its opposition to the potential unionisation and earlier this month a group of more than 70 investors, which collectively hold around $20 billion in Amazon shares, penned a letter calling for Amazon to end its anti-union campaign and remain neutral.
While Amazon runs its annual “The Offer” campaign across the US, it is the first time any Bessemer employees will have had access to the scheme, raising fears many employees who would have voted in favour of unionisation will take the money and leave instead.
Michael Foster, a leader in Bessemer’s union drive, told Motherboard: “I researched and found out they do it at a lot of facilities and what not. But it was a good time to do it now in Bessemer.
“If they quit the vote won’t count. To me it’s just to prevent the people from getting the union in. They need to thin out some people. It’s kind of a polite way to do it.”
According to the Harvard Business Review this tactic, which Amazon adopted from Zappos after acquiring it in 2009, helps wean out employees who “don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for.”
Employees are offered between $1000 and $5000 depending on how many “peaks” they have worked during their employment at Amazon.
An Amazon spokesperson added: “Amazon has a number of different opportunities that are designed to help employees achieve their personal and professional goals.
“While we hope employees stay with and grow their careers at Amazon, this is a voluntary program that’s designed to provide extra support for those who decide that Amazon isn’t part of their long-term career plan, and it’s been offered every year since 2014.”
Around 6000 workers are currently voting by mail on whether to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (WDSU).
Amazon has until now been successful at thwarting all organising efforts in its home country, and the result of the vote will be closely watched by the nearly 800,000 US workers it currently employs.