Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, New York, known as the JFK8 group, have recently voted to join a union to be represented by the Amazon Labor Union, or ALU.
In this way, the JFK8 has just made history by becoming the first group to vote to unionize at a US facility operated by the nation’s largest e-commerce company.
After intense campaigning and six days of in-person voting at the same warehouse, the final tally was 2,654 votes in favor and 2,131 against. Another 67 votes were contested, but the margin of victory was greater than the number of contested ballots, so the results are final.
The ALU didn’t even exist until last year, and now the organization that relied on a crowdfunding campaign to finance itself is responsible for negotiating a collective bargaining agreement on behalf of roughly 6,000 employees at Amazon’s largest fulfillment center in New York. .
That is how, instead of dictating wages, benefits, and working conditions as it does in its vast network of offices, data centers, and warehouses, Amazon will now have to negotiate those key details with union leaders when it comes to the JFK8 group.
The Amazon Labor Union is a group made up of current and former Amazon officials that grew out of the efforts of employees demanding better protections against COVID-19 in April 2020.
The organization is led by Christian Smalls, a former manager at JFK8, who was fired by Amazon that year after the company claimed he violated social distancing rules. As he and other workers involved in strike planning were retaliated against or fired, the Staten Island group began organizing.
On the other hand, in a memorandum leaked that season, Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky said the company should try to make Smalls the face of the movement because “he’s not smart or eloquent.”
However, a few days ago, Smalls said that Amazon got what it hoped for in a Twitter post. “Amazon wanted to make me the face of all union efforts against them… well there you have it!” he wrote, directing comments at Zapolsky and Jeff Bezos.
@amazon wanted to make me the face of the whole unionizing efforts against them…. welcome there you go! @JeffBezos @DavidZapolsky CONGRATULATIONS 🎉 @amazonlabor We worked had fun and made History ‼️✊🏾 #ALU # ALUfortheWin welcome the 1st union in America for Amazon 🔥🔥🔥🔥
— Christian Smalls (@Shut_downAmazon) April 1, 2022
Staten Island’s victory defied the predictions of labor experts, who noted before the election that the union only garnered the support of 30 percent of workers when they formally called for a union election.
Connor Spence, ALU’s vice president of membership, said handing over the signatures of just over 30 percent of workers was a strategic move. By the time the organizers got 50 percent of the signatures, many of the people who signed were likely to leave the facility, because turnover is so high.
So the union’s team of about 20 core organizers worked to call for an election as quickly as possible and focus on the existing pool of workers while they were still warehouse employees.
“That’s the only strategy that will work at Amazon,” Spence said, adding that it was especially true for a union with limited resources.
Amazon, for its part, said in a release that the company is disappointed with the results of the Staten Island vote and believes that unions will get in the way of communication between managers and workers, slowing things down. “We believe that having a direct relationship with the company is in the best interest of our employees,” he noted.
In addition, the ALU also won in the face of the company’s extensive campaign urging workers to vote no, including mandatory meetings with consultants outlining the disadvantages of unions and messages being sent to cell phones and posted in workplaces. .
The company spent $4.3 million on anti-union consultants in 2021, according to a report from HuffPost. However, it is not known how much he has spent so far this year fighting organizing drives in Staten Island, as well as in Bessemer, Alabama, where a separate union drive also ended in a vote.
In the Alabama election, workers voted not to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union. But, the results cannot be confirmed until more than 400 contested ballots are resolved.
A single unionized warehouse is unlikely to have an effect on the customer experience or Amazon’s bottom line. Even so, it could inspire further organization, said Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester. “It’s been something that Amazon has been advocating against for a long time,” she noted.
Certainly the company will not transform into a union shop overnight, and there will potentially be a long way to go, but either way, the wheels are already turning for change. Furthermore, if this victory is certified by the federal labor board, it will give a boost to an employee movement that has been gaining traction across the United States.