A protester counts votes for the union of Amazon workers outside the office of the National Labor Relations Board in New York, USA, on Friday, April 1, 2022.
Jinnah Moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Amazon workers on Staten Island in New York have just made history, becoming the first party to vote for a union at a U.S. facility run by the country’s largest e-commerce company.
After a tough fight, the result is a major defeat for Amazon, which has used all its strength to keep away organized labor on its premises. As of Friday, Staten Island’s warehouse, known as JFK8, had 2,654 With 2,131 people voting in favor of joining the union, 67 ballots were challenged.
The perfection center doesn’t turn into a union store overnight and has a long way to go. But the wheel is dynamic for change.
Here’s what happens next:
The Amazon Labor Union did not exist until last year. Now, the grassroots organization, which relies on a crowdfunding campaign to finance its organization, is responsible for a collective bargaining agreement for approximately 6,000 employees at Amazon’s largest perfection center in New York.
Led by ALU Christian Smalls, a former JFK8 manager who was fired by Amazon in 2020 when the company claimed he had violated social distance rules.
Instead of setting salaries, benefits and working conditions across a vast network of offices, data centers and warehouses, Amazon now needs to discuss those key details with the union leadership in the case of JFK8.
Agreement negotiations between ALU and Amazon could begin soon. But don’t bet.
“Amazon will delay,” said David Rosenfeld, a labor lawyer for Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld, and a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. “They will not enter and do the right thing because it will encourage them to organize everywhere else. They will do everything they can to avoid a deal and it will be a big, long, bad fight. ”
According to an analysis published in June by Bloomberg Law, it takes an average of 409 days for employers and their newly unionized employees to sign the CBA.
Jason Anthony, a member of the Amazon Labor Union, speaks to members of the media during the vote count for the union of Amazon workers outside the office of the National Labor Relations Board in New York, USA, on Friday, April 1, 2022.
Jinnah Moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
If the goal is delayed, Amazon has unlimited resources to hire top lawyers and consultants. The company has already expressed frustration with the results and said it was considering its options, including the National Labor Relations Board’s “objection based on inappropriate and undesirable effects”. Amazon did not specify examples of inappropriate interference, but said the National Retail Federation and the Chamber of Commerce witnessed similar behavior.
Amazon or Union may object to election conduct. Both sides have left that door open. Any objections must be submitted to the NLRB Regional Office by April 8 The agency will investigate the claims and, if there is sufficient evidence, schedule a hearing where each party can present their case.
The challenge doesn’t have to end there. If they are dissatisfied with the regional director’s decision, both parties can file a complaint with the NLRB board in Washington.
The precedent is Amazon’s main concern. JFK8 is one of more than 100 Amazon perfection centers in the United States, and there are many truck and delivery drivers who are not part of these facilities. Bessemer, Alabama workers, have just rolled out a second vote on whether to unionize, and the effort seems to have failed again, with the count being significantly closer than last year’s first contest.
Amazon has no interest in seeing the movement gain momentum. And the company says it doesn’t need to happen. Payment at the fulfillment center starts at $ 18 per hour, above the minimum wage in each US state. Amazon also offers health insurance, paid parental leave and education.
This type of package has proved to be tempting for many workers, especially in parts of the country where old industries have run out and there is a dearth of well-paying blue-collar jobs. But Amazon’s warehouse model isn’t built on retention. As the New York Times reported last year, the company has aligned itself with a pattern that involves extremely high employee churning.
As it stands, Amazon can control everything. If employees are dissatisfied, they may go out the door. Adding a union to the mix makes it completely dynamic, as employees get bargaining power and a seat at the table.
Amazon has a chance to embrace that reality, says Anastasia Christman, a senior policy analyst at the New York National Employment Law Project.
“They have this choice that they can,” Christman said. “They can either decide to continue fighting it in a very negative way or say that the workers have identified problems in the workforce and let’s listen to them.”
Although Amazon’s face-to-face application process may be limited, public pressure is growing and the labor movement is gaining support.
Starbucks barristers in various parts of the country voted in favor of the union, and in late March, Google Fiber contractors in Kansas City, Missouri, backed a union effort to become the first activist to bargain rights under the Alphabet Workers Union.
Vermont Sen. Barney Sanders tweeted his congratulations after the Amazon vote on Friday, saying “this is going to be a shot for the labor movement in this country.”
Amazon has improved its U.S. operations for almost three decades without a union presence. But over the past few years, the company has angered politicians and regulators for allegedly engaging in anti-competitive behavior, paying low taxes and abusing employees.
Tom Cochan, a professor at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it could be a good time for the company to play and avoid a long battle.
“I would now hope that this would be the first victory on behalf of a union that would require Amazon to reconsider its labor relations strategy and begin negotiations in good faith to reach an agreement,” said Kochan, a work expert and employment policymaker. “If they continue to stonewall negotiations, it will add fuel to the fire because they have resisted so strongly at the organizational level.”
Clock: Workers vote for the union at the Amazon NYC warehouse