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Amazon NYC Warehouse Workers Support Union in Historic Labor Win

Hannah K. Nadi
Staff Writer

Pictured above is an Amazon Fulfillment Center (Photo courtesy of Amazon)

On Friday, Amazon employees in Staten Island, New York, voted to unionize, marking the company’s first successful organizing campaign in the United States and giving an unexpected victory to a young group that fueled the union drive. During the pandemic, Amazon, the country’s second largest private employer, grew even more powerful, hiring hundreds of thousands of people to meet soaring demand for online delivery.

With its concentration on ultra-efficient warehouses, automation, and thorough tracking of worker productivity, the corporation is often seen as setting the pattern for what the future of labor looks like across the United States. In Amazon’s 27-year history, this is the first time a group of US workers has successfully voted to create a union. Warehouse workers cast 2,654 votes or about 55% in favor of a union and 2,131 workers or 45% rejected the union bid. The autonomous group, made up of past and current workers who lacked official support from a recognized union and were outgunned by the deep-pocketed retail giant, won an arduous struggle.

Amazon Employees in NY Protesting (Photo courtesy of Vox)

Chris Smalls, a sacked Amazon employee who has been leading the ALU’s (Amazon Labor Union’s) campaign on Staten Island, jumped out of the NLRB headquarters in Brooklyn on Friday, pumping his hands and jumping while yelling “ALU.” They popped the cork on a bottle of Champagne, and Smalls hailed the victory as a rallying cry for Amazon employees across the globe. Following the election, Amazon issued a statement on its corporate website stating that it was examining its options. Stating “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,” the post said. “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 U.S. Chamber of Commerce) witnessed in this election.”

Amazon did not provide further details, but it hinted that it would dispute the election based on a lawsuit filed by the National Labor Relations Board in March, which tried to force Amazon to reinstate a fired employee who was involved in the union push. While spending $4.3 million on anti-union consultants just last year, Amazon has previously stated that “workers have always had the choice of whether or not to join a union.” The corporation said in a statement Friday that it will look into challenging the results rather than accepting that staff voted in support of the endeavor. The ALU’s victory contradicts conventional belief that only national unions can take on large corporations. According to Erin Hatton, a sociology professor at the University of Buffalo in New York, the group may yet face challenges.

Amazon employees in Staten Island want longer breaks, paid time off for injured workers, and a $30 hourly wage, up from the company’s current minimum wage of just over $18 per hour. According to a comparable US Census Bureau analysis of Staten Island’s $85,381 median household income, the estimated average wage for the borough is $41 per hour.


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