LaborPress

Amazon Workers Win on Staten Island and Make History; Bessemer Vote Still Up for Grabs

NEW YORK, N.Y.—Amazon workers in Staten Island have voted by a solid margin to join the homegrown Amazon Labor Union [ALU], while in Bessemer, Alabama, the vote was too close to call. The official count went narrowly against the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union [RWDSU], but enough ballots were challenged to make a difference in the result. 

Chris Smalls and members of the ALU rallied in Times Square last December. This week, the ALU many labor history becoming the first group of Amazon workers in the U.S. to successfully unionize.

At the JFK8 warehouse-and-shipping facility in Staten Island, the vote was 2,654-2,131 in favor of the union. National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] workers in a windowless room, unloading blue paper ballots from a clear plastic tub and reading them off while dividing them into two piles — “Yes. Yes. No. No. Yes.” — finished the counting just after 12:30 p.m. Apr. 1. 

“It’s official. Amazon Labor Union is the first Amazon union in U.S. HISTORY. POWER TO THE PEOPLE!” the ALU posted exultantly on Twitter 10 minutes later.

Both parties have until Apr. 8 to file objections to the count, the NLRB said, but there were only 67 challenged ballots, not enough to affect the results.

In Bessemer, the vote announced March 31, was 993-875 against being represented by the RWDSU, but 416 ballots were not counted because they had been challenged by one of the sides. The NLRB said it will not certify the results until after it considers any objections. 

RWDSU President Stuart Applebaum said the union will file objections.

“Every vote must be counted. Workers at Amazon endured a needlessly long and aggressive fight to unionize their workplace, with Amazon doing everything it could to spread misinformation and deceit,” he said in a statement March 31. “Workers will have to wait just a little bit longer to ensure their voices are heard, and our union will be with them at every step to ensure their voices are heard under the law.”

A hearing on whether any of the challenged ballots should be opened and counted — to consider questions such as whether the workers who cast them were actually eligible to vote — is expected in the next few weeks, the NLRB said.

The Bessemer election was a revote the NLRB ordered last November after it ruled that Amazon illegally interfered with workers’ rights during the first vote early last year, which the RWDSU lost a margin of more than 2-1. It said Amazon had illegally placed a mailbox for ballots inside a tent that was surrounded by surveillance cameras and had a banner that read “speak for yourself,” the company’s antiunion slogan.

In both Bessemer and Staten Island, Amazon required workers to attend multiple “captive-audience meetings,” which management calls sessions to inform employees about the risks of joining a union and unions call forcing them to listen to anti-union propaganda.

In one of the three unfair-labor-practice complaints the RWDSU filed against Amazon in February, it is asking the NLRB to rule that captive-audience meetings are illegal interference under the National Labor Relations Act. It also charged that Amazon tore down union flyers posted in break rooms, while leaving antiunion messages from the company up, and interfered with workers’ right to collective action by prohibiting them from being in the facility more than 30 minutes before or after their shifts.

“What these elections show is Amazon workers want a union…They’re taking a stand and Amazon can’t skirt the law indefinitely,” International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien said in a statement. “The Teamsters are excited to continue this fight against Amazon — on the shop floor, at the bargaining table, and on the streets.” 

The union began organizing Amazon workers in Canada last summer. O’Brien said after he was elected last November that organizing Amazon warehouses would be his top priority. 

The Amazon Labor Union was founded by JFK8 workers in April 2021 after worker Christian Smalls was fired for organizing protests against Amazon’s “unsafe COVID-19 protocols.” It organized intensively, with more than 100 members involved in talking to workers at the bus stop outside the facility in the remote west of Staten Island, a 50-minute commute from the ferry terminal on the S40 bus.

“Amazon wanted to make me the face of the whole unionizing efforts against them… welp there you go!” Smalls posted on Twitter. “CONGRATULATIONS Amazon labor. We worked, had fun, and made history.”

Workers at another Amazon facility in the Staten Island complex, the LDJ5 sorting center, will vote on ALU representation April 25-29.

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