Why Colorado State Treasurer Dave Young is fighting with Amazon employees in Alabama
Young is one four state treasurers from across the country that sent the online retail giant a letter last week over its union dealings.
Last summer, a group of employees at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama contacted the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union over frustrations with the grueling workload demands and the company’s inappropriate monitoring of employees. If the warehouse is successful in its establishment of a union, it would become the first Amazon facility in the country to do so.
"If workers here in Bessemer Alabama can pull this off, that means workers anywhere in the country can. Once this first domino falls, it’s anybody’s game." @GrimKim on the historic union fight at Amazon pic.twitter.com/mQtFUC2ouP
— MEANS TV (@means_tv) February 11, 2021
Amazon has been forcefully attempting to derail their efforts to unionize, which has caught the attention of state treasurers across the country, prompting four of them to pen a letter to the company, urging them to honor and implement its stated commitments to human rights principles, and immediately address the situation unfolding at their Bessemer facility.
Four state treasurers (Del., Ill., Wis., Col.) just sent a letter to Amazon saying its anti-union efforts in Alabama violate Amazon's own "Global Human Rights Principles." Letter here: pic.twitter.com/67KFVenWke
— Dave Jamieson (@jamieson) February 9, 2021
AL DÍA sat down with one of them, Colorado State Treasurer David Young, to learn about his background and his reasons behind taking a stand for worker’s rights.
Young explained that state treasurers across the country keep in regular contact with each other through a national association, in which he’s very active.
“We’re all grappling with a pandemic. We’re all grappling with a financial crisis that’s a result of it. We’re all trying to figure out how to keep our essential workers safe,” Young said.
Young has had a long career in education, spending 25 years teaching at a junior high school in northern Colorado, where he was the chief bargaining spokesperson and president of the teacher's union.
“I taught at higher ed, been very active in the state legislature, supporting workers rights. And so it’s natural for me to continue to do that work as treasurer, to make sure that people who are delivering closest to the public are able to do it in a safe way, and that their voices are heard,” Young said.
Young said it's unfortunate that the leadership at Amazon is engaging in anti-union activities.
“I think that's contrary to what I believe is the prospects ultimately for a sustainable corporation. Investors and Amazon want to know that their leadership is taking all the necessary steps to make sure their company really works well. And listening to employees is really an important part of that,” he explained.
Young spoke about his experiences campaigning for his current role as State Treasurer and how he deeply values demystifying politics for the everyday people that the government is meant to be serving.
“The part I loved the most was knocking on somebody’s door and just talking to them and listening to what it was they cared about, what they wished could happen in their lives. And this is what formulated the policies and the bills that I went down to Denver with and worked on at the Capitol, which I think is what we really want out of our government,” he said.
Young expressed that many people in politics try to make things complicated, but what the “lion's share” of people want, is simply for things to work.
That’s why he felt compelled to sign on to the project of calling on Amazon to do better, because the workers at the facility in Alabama just want to know that there is a pathway for their life to improve and for somebody to take charge and start solving problems.
“But when [companies] appear to be obstructionists, and start engaging in a lot of questionable activities, you begin to wonder, what’s going on behind the scenes? And this is where you breed distrust in politics and in other areas as well,” Young said.
In his opinion, the current anti-union efforts on behalf of Amazon will have a negative impact on the minds of their investors.
“Amazon wants investors to come in and invest in the company, but if it appears that they’re not working with their employees, that puts their service delivery at risk and makes people think twice,” said Young.
Investors may start to question whether they want to keep their money in an entity that may lose its value because they’re not treating their employees with respect.
On Tuesday, Feb. 9, two major Amazon investors, Öhman and Folksam, penned a letter to the company, calling on them to adopt a neutrality policy as their workers consider forming or joining a union.
Young believes in economic justice.
As State Treasurer, he’s worked on a large retirement savings program for a workplace in Colorado that previously wasn’t offering any way to save money for retirement for any of its millions of employees. He worked to create an account for these employees that allows for them to have a more dignified retirement.
NOW, @GovofCO will sign Speaker @kcbecker and Rep. @tkth's bill to create a robust, flexible retirement savings system for Colorado's workers that supports businesses too. #COLeg #COPolitics pic.twitter.com/sbIg6GjSJw
— COHouseDems (@COHouseDem) July 14, 2020
“There’s no big pressure on the business, besides some pressure to lock in the payroll deduction. But otherwise, that money is going in there. And then we have private firms that know how to manage these things and manage the money that we're going to bring in and we get people to start to save,” Young explained.
“There’s a bigger obligation to the financial, health and welfare of people in every state that we care about. And we’re looking for ways that we can provide that economic justice for people. It lights everybody up. At the end of the day, we’re all better,” Young said.