K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Closed-door meetings on unions preceded Amazon’s withdrawal

Michael Gormley:

A series of tense, closed-door meetings during which Amazon was pressed to hire union workers at its proposed Queens headquarters preceded the company’s abrupt pullout on Thursday, which shocked even insiders, according to several people familiar with the discussions.

Two days before, in his 38th floor office in Manhattan on Tuesday morning, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo met with four Amazon executives, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO.

The prize was clear: A promised 25,000 jobs with an average salary of $150,000, but Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio were urging Amazon to hire a union workforce.

The 8,000-word memorandum of understanding signed by Amazon and state and city leaders on Nov. 12 made no mention of unions or collective bargaining, and Amazon was, at the time, facing calls for strikes at its facilities in Germany and Spain.

That left perhaps the stickiest issue to be worked out, three months after New York was chosen for a headquarters in a nationwide competition for what would have been the state’s biggest economic development coup in history.