Amazon workers in NYC are voting to unionize in historic labor success

NEW YORK (AP) – Amazon workers on Staten Island in New York voted to form a union on Friday, marking the first successful U.S. arrangement in retail business history and giving an unexpected victory to a new group that spurred the union movement.

2,654 votes, or about 55%, in favor of one union – enough support for the Amazon trade union to win. According to the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees the process, 2,131 workers – or 45% – rejected the union effort.

The 67 ballots challenged by Amazon or the ALU were not enough to change the outcome. Federal Labor officials said the results of the count would not be verified until any objections – by April 8 – were filed by both parties.

The victory was an uphill battle for an independent group of former and current workers who had no official support from an established union. Despite the obstacles, the organizers believed that their grassroots approach was more relevant to the workers and that the unions formed in the past could help them deal with failed areas. They are right.

Chris Smalls, fired Amazon employee The man who led the ALU in the protest on Staten Island came out of the NLRB building in Brooklyn with other union organizers on Friday, pumped his fists and chanted “ALU”. They unwrapped a bottle of champagne, and Smalls hailed the victory as a call to arms for other Amazon workers in the sprawling company.

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

Smalls believes that New York’s success will motivate workers in other facilities to launch their own organizational campaigns. His team will also soon turn their attention to the Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, where a separate union election is scheduled for late April. The organizers hope that Friday’s victory will make it easier for them to succeed there.

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Amazon released a statement on its corporate website on Friday saying it would evaluate its options following the election.

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“We are disappointed with the outcome of the election on Staten Island because we believe it is best for our employees to have a direct relationship with the company,” the post said. “We evaluate our options in this election, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence of the NLRB that we and others (including the National Retail Federation and the American Chamber of Commerce) have seen.”

The company did not elaborate, but signaled that it might challenge the election based on a lawsuit filed by the NLRB in March, which sought to force Amazon to re-employ the fired employee. Involved in the trade union movement.

Mark Cohen, director of retail courses at Columbia University, said he did not see how workers would benefit from the unionized Amazon facility and that it was misleading the overall drive to merge companies. Amazon is a “highly disciplined and regimental” business willing to pay premium and good returns, but demands the greatest productivity from its workers who work 10-hour shifts.

“Amazon is not going to change their culture because there is a union among them now,” Cohen said. “They may force people to work eight hours a day, but those people will make less money.”

The successful union effort on Staten Island was in stark contrast to the one launched in Bessemer, Alabama Also established by the Union of Retail, Wholesale and Supermarkets. Workers at the Amazon warehouse seem to have rejected the union effort But pending challenge votes may change the outcome. The union received 875 votes out of 993 against. The hearing to review the 416 challenge votes is expected to begin in the next few days.

The union campaigns come at a time of widespread labor unrest in many corporations. For example, workers at more than 140 Starbucks locations across the country have called for union elections, many of which have already been won.

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But Amazon has long been considered a great gift for the labor movement, making it the largest size and impact of the company. The results of Staten Island echoed up to the White House.

“The president is pleased to hear that workers’ voices are being heard on important workplace decisions,” White House Press Secretary Jen Zhaki told a news conference on Friday. “He firmly believes that every worker in every state should have a free and fair choice to join a union and the right to negotiate jointly with their employer.”

John Logan, director of labor and employment research at San Francisco State University, said union success was a potential turning point for two years as an epidemic that changed the working landscape.

“We know there’s a moment for unions, but it’s a big one,” Logan said. “There’s no greater gift than regulating the Amazon.”

He said the success of the ALU violated the traditional thinking that only national unions could take over big companies. According to Erin Hutton, a sociology professor at the University of Buffalo in New York, the group could still fight.

“Bringing Amazon to the bargaining table will be another achievement for all together,” Hutton said. “Often the union will fail because the company did not come to the negotiating table in good faith as they were supposed to do.”

Rebecca Given, a professor of labor studies at Rutgers University, said the victory was the first step in a protracted war against the Amazon.

“It is clear that Amazon will continue to fight, and they do not agree that workers have the right to regulate,” he said. “The legal questions they raised this afternoon seem to be an attempt to undermine the full authority of the NLRB.”

Amazon was severely beaten ahead of two elections in Staten Island and Bessemer. The retailer held mandatory meetings where workers’ unions were told it was a bad idea. The company also launched an anti-union website targeting workers and put up English and Spanish posters throughout the Staten Island facility. At Bessemer, Amazon has made some changes, but still holds the controversial U.S. Postal Service mailbox That was significant in the NLRB’s decision to invalidate last year’s vote.

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Both labor struggles faced unique challenges. Alabama, for example, is the state with the right to work, which prohibits a company and union from signing a contract, which requires workers to pay the amount they owe to the union that represents them.

The Union Territory in Alabama is completely different from New York. Last year, union members made up 22.2% of paid and salaried employees in New York, just behind Hawaii, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is more than double the national average of 10.3%. In Alabama, it is 5.9%.

Amazon workers on Staten Island have long breaks, paid time for injured employees, an hourly wage of $ 30, and a minimum of $ 18 per hour provided by the company. According to a similar U.S. census analysis of Staten Island’s average household income of $ 85,381, the city’s estimated average wage is $ 41 per hour.

Rose Harrison, who voted in favor of organizing on Staten Island, believed the union could improve things at work, but was unsure of its major impact.

“Life is so much bigger than a union,” Harrison said when he reported for his change on Friday. “Amazon is a great job and the union is a great opportunity for the people who look forward to it.”

But others are not so celebratory.

Denia Greenway voted against the union, but said she would now set aside an additional ruling. “We can not withdraw our votes,” he said. “I’m giving things a chance, but we’ll see if they keep their promise.”

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May Anderson, an employee of the Associated Press in New York, contributed to this report.

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