New York: Amazon employees vote for unions

Either side can contest the result until April 8, or else the result will be official at that time. (Photo: 123RF)

Amazon workers in Staten Island, New York, voted for a union on Friday in the first successful attempt to organize workers at the US online retail giant.

Warehouse workers received 2,654 union votes, or about 55%, which was enough to give victory to the Amazon Workers’ Union (ALU). According to the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which oversaw the process, 2,131 workers, or about 45%, rejected the union’s proposal.

The 67 votes that were voided, or whose validity was challenged by Amazon or the Federation, were not enough to overturn the result.

More than 8,300 employees could vote, and about 57% of them did.

Either side can contest the result until April 8, or else the result will be official at that time.

The victory is a blow to the independent consortium made up of current and former Amazon employees, which is not backed by a major national confederation and which has had only a fraction of the means of its huge opponent.

Despite all these obstacles, union leaders believed that their grassroots approach would delight the workers and help them triumph where others before them had failed.

Chris Smalls, the fired Amazon employee who led the ALU into their battle on Staten Island, ran out of joy after declaring victory. He and his colleagues opened a bottle of champagne.

“I hope everyone is paying attention now, because a lot of people have been suspicious of us,” he said.

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Chris Smalls hopes the victory in New York will encourage workers at other facilities to launch their own organizational campaigns. Even his group will soon turn its attention to a warehouse near Amazon on Staten Island, where a separate union election is scheduled for late April. Organizers believe Friday’s win will make it easier for them to win.

Amazon issued a statement on the company’s website on Friday saying it is considering its options after the election. She indicated that she might refuse to recognize the result.

“We are disappointed with the result of the Staten Island vote, as we believe a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees,” the letter read. “We are considering our options, including filing objections on the basis of the improper and undue influence of the NLRB that we and others (including the National Retail Federation and the American Chamber of Commerce) experienced during this election.

Amazon has long maintained that its workers do not need a union because the company already offers good wages as well as benefits like health care, 401(k) retirement plans and a prepaid tuition program to help advance workers’ jobs.

Another vote in Alabama

Meanwhile, Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, appeared to be refusing to form a union, but some disputed ballot papers could change the outcome of the ballot. The vote was 993 to 875 against the Union. However, a hearing to review 416 disputed ballot papers will be held in the coming days.

Amazon is the second largest private employer in the country, and it deployed heavy artillery ahead of both votes. The company held mandatory meetings during which workers were told unions were a bad idea.

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Amazon has also launched anti-union websites, as well as pasting wallpaper for its Staten Island warehouse with posters in English and Spanish calling for the disapproval of unions.

The union suffered a crushing defeat at Bessemer last year, when the majority of employees voted against the unions. The Retail, Wholesale and Retail Consortium of the United States (RWDSU) got a second chance, however, when the NLRB ordered a buyback, after identifying Amazon affected the first vote.

RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said Thursday that the union intends to challenge Amazon’s handling of the vote in Bessemer, but he did not elaborate.

Amazon made some changes to Bessemer, but the giant left a mailbox in place that prompted the NLRB to invalidate last year’s vote. Installed in a warehouse parking lot, this mailbox gives the false impression that Amazon is organizing voting, and all employees using it can be filmed with surveillance cameras, an intimidation tactic, according to the union.

Amazon revealed Thursday that it spent $4.2 million in 2021 on “labor relations advisors,” which unionists blame for hiring the company to urge employees not to join unions. It is unclear how much Amazon will spend on such services in 2022.

The majority of workers in the Bessemer Warehouse are black, reflecting the city’s population. Trade unionists are calling for better working conditions, particularly with regard to working conditions, length of rest periods and wages. A full-time employee’s salary is at least $15.80 an hour, about $1.25 more than the city average.

These union campaigns come at a time of great labor unrest in many US companies. Employees at more than 140 Starbucks coffee shops in the United States, for example, have called for union elections, and many have already succeeded in forming unions.

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