Amazon warehouse workers in New York file for union vote

6 months after the union loss in Alabama, workers continue to push for unionization at the trillionaire company

October 26, 2021 by Monica Cruz
Amazon Labor Union members submit signed union cards to the National Labor Relations Board. Photo: Twitter @TweetsByBranden

Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, New York have formally filed a petition to hold a union election. About 2,000 workers signed cards, representing a third of the warehouse. The Amazon Labor Union (ALU), the grassroots group leading this union fight, has been organizing for months, mobilizing protests against the conditions at the warehouse and hosting barbecues to build camaraderie among the workers.

The petition must go through the formal representation election process of the National Labor Relations Board or NLRB, which is the government agency responsible for overseeing the unionization process and enforcing labor law regarding collective bargaining and unfair labor practices in the U.S. According to its website, the ALU aims to secure higher wages, more time off, more reasonable production rates, and more.

In recent years, particularly over the course of the pandemic, reports have come out unmasking the reality of working for one of the largest companies in the world and under one of the world’s richest people, former CEO Jeff Bezos. The news of the poor working conditions made headlines globally when stories began to circulate that employees were often forced to urinate and defecate in bottles and bags on the road due to the intense pressure to meet quotas, a claim publicly denied by the company. A report released by The Intercept in March 2021 based on leaked company documents and interviews with workers revealed that not only was this claim true, but the company was well aware of it happening and had determined disciplinary measures for those that were caught doing these actions.

Amazon is also infamous for its union-busting tactics. The Amazon Labor Union has filed ten complaints with the NLRB, claiming that the company has attempted to interfere with its union organizing. The multi-trillion dollar corporation is currently facing charges with the NLRB for its actions during the widely publicized union drive at its warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama earlier this year. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union filed 23 objections with the NLRB against Amazon, with charges including surveillance and coercion, threatening layoffs and the closure of the facility, and intimidating workers who supported the union. During the height of the Bessemer union drive, Amazon paid anti-union consultants a total of $10,000 a day.

The union drive in Alabama was the closest workers at a US Amazon warehouse got to unionizing. The historic election resulted in a loss for the union. In August, a NLRB hearing officer recommended a rerun of the election due to Amazon’s anti-union campaign.  Workers now await a formal decision on their objections from the Regional Director.

With a workforce of almost 1 million people, Amazon is the second largest private sector employer in the United States. A union victory at just one Amazon facility could have a ripple effect across the country.

“This is truly a remarkable historical moment for all Amazon workers all over the country,” said the Amazon Labor Union in a statement. “Workers under the banner of the ALU have already broken barriers, and we will continue to do so. We’re not getting complacent, and we now need the support of the communities more than ever as our fight is just getting started.”

Monica Cruz is a reporter with US-based media outlet Breakthrough News.

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