Organizers and supporters of Amazon’s work celebrate near the offices of the National Labor Council in the Brooklyn district of New York on Friday, April 1, 2022.
Stephanie Keith Bloomberg | Getty Images
Employees of the Amazon warehouse on New York’s Staten Island on Friday voted to join the union, a groundbreaking move for organized work and a sharp defeat for the e-commerce giant, which has been aggressively battling unions in the company.
The amount was 2654 votes in favor of joining the union and 2131 against. Approximately 8,325 workers had the right to vote or become part of the Amazon Labor Union. There were 67 contested ballots, and this gap is too small to change the outcome of the election. The results have yet to be officially certified by the National Labor Relations Council.
The Staten Island facility, known as JFK8, is Amazon’s largest company in New York, and is now the first in the United States to unite, despite the fact that workers had to look at a large anti-union campaign. Amazon pasted JFK8 walls with “Vote Against” banners, created a website and weekly mandatory meetings. He even hired an influential consulting and survey firm that has close ties to democratic political groups, and advertised its own advantages over those offered by unions.
By voting in the Amazon Labor Union, Staten Island workers could challenge the company’s current model of work, which is the basis of its two-day delivery promise. Unions could violate the level of control that Amazon exercises over its warehouse and delivery employees, such as its ability to unilaterally set the pace of work and hourly wages, CNBC’s labor experts previously said.
“We are disappointed with the election results on Staten Island because we believe that a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees,” said an Amazon spokesman. “We evaluate our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence of the NLRB, which we and others (including the National Retail Federation and the US Chamber of Commerce) have witnessed in this election.”
ALU has urged Amazon to set in stock “smarter” performance metrics. He also called on the company to raise wages and give employees more paid breaks and vacations, among other requirements.
ALU was an unlikely contender to win Amazon’s first lineup in the unions. Launched in 2021, it is a massive employee-led organization that relies heavily on crowdsourcing donations from a GoFundMe account to fund organizational activities.
People hold placards during a protest in support of Amazon and Starbucks workers in New York on November 26, 2021.
Yuki Iwamura | AFP | Getty Images
The union is led by Christian Smalls, a former JFK8 manager who was fired by Amazon in 2020 after the company said it had violated social distancing rules. Smalls claimed he was fired in retaliation for organizing a protest in the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic with calls for tighter security.
Smalls quickly became a leader in worker activity at Amazon and elsewhere. He spoke at rallies criticizing Amazon’s seniority, and at one commemorative protest organized a guillotine near the mansion of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in Washington, D.C., to call for higher wages.
Amazon executives have drawn attention to Smalls’ activity. A leaked note received by Vice revealed that David Zapolsky, Amazon’s general counsel, called Smalls “unreasonable and inaccurate” in a meeting with the company’s top managers, an incident that further angered critics of Amazon’s work practices.
Amazon is still facing another labor battle at its warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. The NLRB called for by-elections in November last year after finding that Amazon had wrongly interfered in the first election last spring.
Worker activity at Amazon has risen since the Covid pandemic toppled the U.S. in early 2020. Before the first election in Bessemer, the last significant union vote at Amazon in the U.S. took place at a warehouse in Delaware in 2014, when a group of repair technicians voted 21 to 6 against joining the International Association of Drivers and Aerospace Workers.
The vote count in Bessemer ended on Thursday, but the results are still too close to be named. 993 votes voted against the union, 875 for the union. The result depends on about 416 ballots, which are still contested by Amazon and the Union of Retail, Wholesale and Department Store. The NLRB will schedule hearings in the coming weeks to determine whether ballots will be opened and counted.
WATCH: Amazon workers in Alabama voted against uniting in unions