Amazon warehouse workers in New York unionize in historic win against web giant

White House chimes in: Folks 'in every state must have a free and fair choice' to unionize


Amazon warehouse workers in New York City voted in favor of joining a trade union on Friday, marking the first-ever successful union campaign against the tech giant in its history.

The election was held by staff at Amazon's JFK8 fulfillment center on Staten Island, New York: 2,654 votes were cast by the facility's workers in favor of joining the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) versus 2,131 votes against the move. About 8,300 in total were eligible to vote, and the results need to be signed off by US labor officials. The White House applauded the outcome:

The ALU is an independent union made up of current and former workers of JFK8. Formed in April 2021, it's led by president Christian Smalls, an ex-Amazon employee who was fired for organizing protests over working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Smalls and his colleagues filed a petition to hold a union election with America's National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in October last year.

After months of fundraising and campaigning, the ALU successfully persuaded a majority of workers to join the union. The groundbreaking victory marks the first time Amazon has failed to quash unionization efforts since the internet titan was founded over a quarter of a century ago, paving the way for other warehouses to follow suit. JFK8 is Amazon's biggest warehouse in New York.

The campaign reportedly rattled Amazon enough that they not only bombarded staff at the facility with anti-union messaging, bosses discussed Smalls in rather uncharitable terms internally while planning a PR blitz to sink the unionization attempt.

"We worked had fun and made history," Smalls tweeted this morning. "ALU for the win. Welcome the 1st union in America for Amazon."

The ALU wants Amazon to bump wages by 7.5 percent to match inflation, reinstate 20-minute breaks, and provide a private shuttle service for employees.

Previous attempts at unionizing have failed. Warehouse workers represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in Bessemer, Alabama, lost an election held last April. After that union filed objections to the NLRB, claiming Amazon illegally interfered with the vote and intimidated workers, the group was granted another opportunity to run the election. Ballots were cast on Thursday, and the results have yet to be confirmed.

Although JFK8 workers have secured a victory against Amazon, it'll be an uphill battle to get the biz to recognize the union. "We're disappointed with the outcome of the election in Staten Island because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees", a spokesperson for the web goliath told CNBC.

"We're evaluating our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB that we and others (including the National Retail Federation and US Chamber of Commerce) witnessed in this election."

The ALU was jubilant and undeterred.

"We're extremely pleased with the outcome and it's a historic victory. We hope it'll set off a wave of organizing in the country," ALU's Connor Spence, VP of membership, told The Register. Regarding Amazon's threat to appeal the vote outcome, Spence added: "I don't foresee it going anywhere. It's just a way to forestall our unionization." ®

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