Amazon fails to overturn New York City union election

National Labor Relations Board says company had not met the burden of proof for its objections

Amazon's attempt to rerun the election that resulted in workers unionizing at a warehouse in New York City has been shut down by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Back in April, workers at the JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island voted to join the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) by 2,654 to 2,131, becoming the first such movement not to be crushed by the e-commerce giant.

The organization is led by Christian Smalls, a former employee who was fired for leading protests over working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

However, the company has never recognized the union. At the time, a spokesperson said: "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.

"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."

Amazon went on to file 25 objections to the election in May, accusing the NLRB's Brooklyn office (Region 29) of violating labor law by appearing to support the attempts to unionize, and claimed organizers had intimidated workers to vote, among other complaints.

And yet Lisa Dunn, the NLRB attorney presiding over the matter, yesterday released documents saying:

After conducting a hearing over 24 business days via the Zoom for Government platform and carefully reviewing the evidence and arguments made by the parties, I conclude that the Employer's objections should be overruled in their entirety. The Employer has not met its burden of establishing that Region 29, the Petitioner, or any third parties have engaged in objectionable conduct affecting the results of the election.

The ALU said in a statement: "While we are pleased with her findings, the Amazon workers in the ALU understand that this is just the beginning of a much longer fight. Amazon's abuse of the legal process is simply a stalling tactic that is meant to delay our negotiations and cause workers to lose faith in the process."

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told The Register: "While we're still reviewing the decision, we strongly disagree with the conclusion and intend to appeal. As we showed throughout the hearing with dozens of witnesses and hundreds of pages of documents, both the NLRB and the ALU improperly influenced the outcome of the election and we don't believe it represents what the majority of our team wants."

Other attempts to unionize among Amazon workers have fallen through. Warehouse staff 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 in March, which failed a second time.

Likewise, another Staten Island warehouse, LDJ5, voted against joining the ALU just a month after its historic win at JFK8.

Amazon's outward attitude toward unions jars with what the company is saying internally. In June, internal research from 2021 leaked, revealing that Amazon is on track to "deplete the available labor supply in the US network by 2024" if it continues business as usual.

The research noted that the labor pool grows by 7 percent for every dollar added to the minimum wage – so maybe allowing workers to unionize and actually acting upon their collective concerns might not be such a terrible idea.

If, that is, Amazon wishes to keep sending out those smiley boxes with next-day delivery long into the future. ®

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