Two votes bring Amazon closer to unionization

NEW YORK. Unions have always known that convincing Amazon workers to join a union would be difficult.

But two remarkably close voices give them hope.

In Staten Island, New York, 1,518 warehouse workers voted yes to form a union, but 1,154 voted no, according to the first tally, released Thursday night by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). observes both voices. The counting continued on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, appear to have given up on forming a union, but some contested ballots could change the outcome of the vote. The vote against the union was 993 to 775. However, hearings to review the 416 contested ballots will take place in the coming days.

If a majority of employees end up voting “yes” to Staten Island or Bessemer, it would be the first successful unionization in Amazon’s history in the United States. The second largest private employer in the country is trying by all means to prevent its workers from organizing.

Union campaigns take place at a time of great labor unrest in many companies. For example, employees at more than 140 Starbucks restaurants in the US have called for a union vote, and some have already managed to organize.

John Logan, a labor expert at San Francisco State University, said the first count in New York was “amazing.” The Amazon New Union (ALU), which is leading the campaign in Staten Island, lacks the backing of a well-established union and is led by current and former warehouse workers.

“I don’t think many believed that the Amazon union had a chance to win,” he said. And I think we will see more (approaches) in the future.”

After a crushing defeat in Bessemer last year, when a majority of employees voted against unionization, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Stores Union of the United States (RWDSU) got a second chance when the NLRB ordered a reselection after it determined Amazon had swayed the first vote. . .

Although RWDSU is currently behind, Logan thinks the preliminary results are remarkable as the union has closed the gap since last year.

RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said on Thursday that the union intends to challenge Amazon’s actions in the Bessemer vote, but declined to elaborate.

Chris Smalls, the fired Amazon employee who leads the ALU in the fight for Staten Island, continues to believe in victory.

“Being ahead on day one and having a few hundred votes advantage against a $1 trillion company is the best feeling in the world,” Mr. Smalls said after Thursday’s recount.

Amazon deployed heavy artillery in front of both voices. The e-commerce giant held mandatory meetings where workers were told unions were a bad idea.

The company also launched anti-union websites for workers, in addition to plastering a Staten Island warehouse with posters in English and Spanish calling for non-unionization.

Amazon made some changes to Bessemer, but the giant kept the PO box, prompting the NLRB to annul last year’s vote. This mailbox, set up in a warehouse parking lot, gives the false impression that Amazon is organizing a vote and all employees using it can be caught on surveillance cameras, which the union says is a scare tactic.

Amazon said Thursday that it spent $4.2 million in 2021 on “labor relations consultants” accused by unions of hiring the company to encourage employees not to organize. It’s unclear how much Amazon spent on such services in 2022.

The workers at Bessemer’s warehouse are predominantly black, in line with the city’s population. Trade unionists are demanding better working conditions. A full-time employee’s salary is at least $15.80 per hour, about $1 more than the citywide average.

More than two-thirds of Staten Island’s warehouse workers are black and Hispanic, and most of the managers are white or Asian. Employees are demanding longer breaks, paid injury leave, and an hourly rate of $30 an hour, while the company is offering $18. According to federal data, the average wage in this corner of the US is $41 an hour.

An Amazon spokesman talked about all the benefits for employees, including a retirement plan and help with tuition fees.

“As a company, we do not see unions as the best solution for our employees,” a spokesperson said in an email. We want to continue to work directly with our team to make Amazon a great place to work.”

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