In a first for the Amazon’s US facilities, warehouse workers in Staten Island, New York, have voted in favor of joining a union. The union’s win, if certified by the federal labor board, adds momentum to an organizing movement that’s been gaining steam around the country.
The tally of 2,654 yes votes to 2,131 no votes came after six days of in-person voting at the warehouse and an intense campaign. In the leadup to the vote, the union filed complaints to the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Amazon engaged in unfair labor practices.
The Amazon Labor Union, a new group that was formed by current and former Amazon workers, emerged from workers’ efforts to demand better COVID-19 protections in 2020. The group eventually began an organizing bid after some workers involved in planning walkouts were disciplined or fired. That included fired worker Chris Smalls, who caught the attention of Amazon’s top leadership. In a memo that was later leaked, Amazon’s general counsel, David Zapolsky, said the company should try to make him the face of the movement because he’s “not smart or articulate.”
In a tweet Friday, Smalls said Amazon got what it hoped for. “Amazon wanted to make me the face of the whole unionizing efforts against them…. welp there you go!” he wrote, addressing the comments to Zapolsky and Jeff Bezos.
Separately, a vote on unionization at an Amazon facility in Alabama failed on Thursday, though the result could be affected when hundreds of challenged ballots are resolved.
Amazon said in a statement that it’s disappointed with the results of the Staten Island vote: “We believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees.”
The statement went on to say that Amazon would evaluate its options for filing objections to the election based on “inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB.” Amazon didn’t respond to a follow-up question from CNET about what that alleged influence involved.
“The NLRB is an independent federal agency that Congress has charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act,” said NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado in a statement. “All NLRB enforcement actions against Amazon have been consistent with that Congressional mandate.”
At a briefing with reporters, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden “was glad to see workers ensure their voices are heard with respect to important workplace decisions.” She added, “He believes that every worker in every state must have a free and fair choice to join a union and the right to bargain collectively with their employer.”
The Staten Island victory defied predictions of labor experts, who noted before the election that the union only secured support from 30% of workers when they formally requested a union election. Amazon expressed skepticism that the workers’ group had even achieved that benchmark but agreed to move ahead with the election. ALU also won in the face of Amazon’s extensive campaign urging workers to vote no, including mandatory meetings with consultants describing downsides to unions and messages sent to phones and posted around work spaces.
“It’s very, very difficult to win in any circumstances, and especially against an employer with unlimited resources,” said Rebecca Givan, an associate professor of labor relations at Rutgers University…Read more>>