Coalition of Unions Calls on FTC to Investigate Amazon

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On February 27, a coalition of unions filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) calling for an investigation into what they argue are Amazon’s monopolistic and anti-competitive business practices. The parties in the coalition are the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Communications Workers of America, the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, the Service Employees International Union, and Change to Win. Collectively, the unions represent 5.3 million workers.

In its petition, the coalition called on the FTC to launch an investigation into Amazon to determine if “(1) Amazon is maintaining direct and indirect control over the prices of goods on its e-commerce and cloud computing platforms; (2) Amazon is tying favorable search rankings to its own profit and the purchase of unrelated Amazon services; (3) Amazon is engaging in price discrimination against users of competing platforms; (4) Amazon is using data obtained as a platform to its competitive advantage as a retailer and provider of cloud computing software; (5) Amazon is depressing wages in local labor markets and/or throughout its fissured workforce.”

“Petitioners support the FTC’s own reported effort to obtain voluntary third-party cooperation in an initial inquiry into Amazon, but we do not believe it is sufficient,” the petition said. “Given the speed at which Amazon continues to amass market power and the company’s persistent disregard for inquiries of the legislative branch, we submit that a more forceful inquiry is urgently needed.”

According to CNBC, an Amazon spokesperson commented, “The fact is that no other U.S.-based company has created more jobs than Amazon in the last decade. In the U.S. alone, Amazon has created over 500,000 jobs for people with all types of experience, education, and skill levels.”

While Amazon directly employs 22 percent of the entire national labor market in private warehousing and storage, the unions’ petition cites multiple reports that indicate these jobs are not tied to increased wages. In fact, average wages in these industries fall following Amazon’s arrival in the labor market. For instance, annual salary and weekly earning averages in warehousing and storage in Mercer County, New Jersey, has fallen by 18 percent since Amazon arrived in 2014.

The U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law is in the midst of investigations into Big Tech, including Amazon. Recently, the FTC announced it will review Big Tech’s acquisitions from 2010 to 2019. The FTC asked Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Alphabet (Google), and Microsoft for information on all acquisitions during this 10-year period that were small enough to avoid the mandatory reporting requirement.

The American Booksellers Association has repeatedly called on the FTC, Department of Justice, and State Attorneys General to open investigations into Amazon’s conduct.