New York — Amazon and the fledgling group that successfully organized the company’s first-ever U.S. union are heading for a rematch on Monday, when a federal labor commission tallies the votes cast by warehouse workers in a new election in Staten Island.
A second labor victory could give workers at other Amazon facilities — and other companies — the motivation they need to launch similar efforts. It could also cement the power and influence of the Amazon Labor Union, the grassroots group of former and current workers who won last month’s historic victory.
But a union loss could stifle some of the labor celebration and raise questions about whether the first win was just a fluke.
The results of the election are expected to be announced early Monday evening by the National Labor Relations Board, which is overseeing the process. In the meantime, the agency has yet to decide whether or not to certify the first gain, which has been disputed by Amazon.
There are far fewer workers eligible to vote in this latest election compared to last month – around 1,500 compared to 8,300 at the nearby Staten Island plant. There are also fewer organizers – around 10 compared to around 30.
“It’s a much more personal and aggressive fight here,” said Connor Spence, an Amazon employee who works as the union’s vice president of membership.
Spence said there was more support for organizing efforts earlier this year when the ALU filed for election. But that was quickly overshadowed by the larger facility across the street, where organizers were directing their energy more.
Meanwhile, Amazon continued to hold mandatory meetings to persuade its workers to reject the union effort, issuing union-busting flyers and launching a website urging workers to “vote NO.”
Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in a statement that it’s up to employees to decide whether or not they want to join a union. But “as a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” Nantel said. “Our goal remains to work directly with our team to continue to make Amazon a great place to work.”
Experts say the rambling union is disadvantaged by the low number of organizers, but that might not cause problems since the ALU’s legitimacy was bolstered by last month’s unexpected victory. He also won the support of senior labor leaders and prominent progressive lawmakers. At a rally outside the warehouse a day before voting began last week, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voiced support for organizers leading the labor campaign .
“It’s definitely about ALU, but it’s also about the larger desire to organize right now,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, who also attended the rally. “And we need to run as fast as we can in this environment to organize millions of people if we are going to change the power structure in this country and give working people a fair chance.”
After their first win on Staten Island, ALU organizers shifted their focus back to the smaller warehouse and reiterated their vision to workers – longer breaks, better job protection and a $30 higher hourly wage. $, compared to the low of just over $18 currently offered on Staten Island.
Spence said they also tailored their pitch to part-time workers, on whom the establishment relies heavily and who were awaiting their requests to transfer to full-time work at the company. At the time the votes were cast, he believed the union had regained momentum.
“We had to get it back,” he said.
Even with a win under their belt, progress has been slow for ALU. Last month, Amazon filed objections to the success of the labor campaign, arguing in a filing with the NLRB that the vote was tainted by organizers and the council’s Brooklyn regional office that oversaw the election. The company says it wants a new election, but pro-union pundits believe it is an effort to delay contract talks and potentially blunt some of the organizing momentum.
Despite the setbacks, the ALU has made progress in other ways, highlighting Amazon’s union-busting tactics and highlighting concerns about its working conditions. This in turn rallied others to action.
On Tuesday, Sanders sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to sign an executive order that ends Amazon’s contracts with the government until the retailer stops what Sanders calls its “unlawful union busting.” Organizers believe such a move would fulfill the president’s campaign promise to “ensure that federal contracts only go to employers who sign neutrality agreements pledging not to conduct union-busting campaigns.”
In New York, two state lawmakers have introduced a bill to regulate warehouse productivity quotas, aimed at reducing workplace injuries at facilities operated by Amazon and other companies. The bill’s sponsors said they were motivated by ALU’s impending contract negotiations with the company, which has come under fire for its high injury rates in warehouses.
Separately, the ALU, along with the American Federation of Teachers and United Teachers of New York State, are calling on New York Attorney General Letitia James to investigate Amazon’s eligibility for credits. tax as part of a state program designed to attract businesses to New York. In a letter sent to James, Seth Goldstein, a union lawyer who provides free legal aid to the ALU, claims that Amazon has committed “gross unfair labor practices” during union campaigns that violated the provisions of the worker protection program. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.
Back in Staten Island, some warehouse workers voted against unionization, saying they already felt supported by the company and would rather wait to see how contract negotiations go at the other facility before joining. join the union effort. There are also doubts that the ALU can accomplish what it sets out to do.
Alexander Campbell, a 25-year-old warehouse worker, voted against the union, saying he had read some things online that convinced him his pay could go down if the warehouse unionized.
But others are supporting. Michael Aguilar, a part-time warehouse worker turned ALU organizer, said he filed with Amazon about two months ago to transition to full-time work. He says that request was not granted, but the company continues to hire new people. When one of the organizers invited him to a union call, he attended and eventually decided to join the union campaign.
“Everything they were fighting for was everything I went through,” he said. “Once I found that out, I jumped on board.”