Amazon Union has a strong lead in votes in New York; losses in Alabama By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Workers line up to vote in a union election at Amazon’s JFK8 distribution center, in the Staten Island borough of New York City, US, March 25, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Jeffrey Dastin and Danielle Kaye

(Reuters) -Amazon.com Inc workers at a warehouse on Staten Island in New York City have voted 57% in favor of unionization so far, with a final vote on Friday, a potential landmark victory for organized labor at the second-largest U.S. private employer.

But that victory was in stark contrast to the fact that 53% of Amazon (NASDAQ:) workers in Alabama rejected unionization, in a still undecided result.

The Alabama contest could hinge on 416 challenged ballots to be reviewed in the coming weeks, which is enough to change the outcome, said the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which oversees the election. The situation is very different from last year, when workers sided with Amazon by a margin of more than 2 to 1 against unions.

If the final results show that either location voted to unionize, it would be a historic first for the retail giant in the United States and a milestone for labor advocates, who have viewed Amazon’s labor practices as a threat to workers for years. .

In fierce campaigns, Amazon warned of unions in stall announcements and held mandatory meetings to tell workers unions could force them to strike. It has raised wages and offered higher signing bonuses in the face of labor shortages, appealing to employees who fear organizing means a never-ending struggle.

At the same time, trade union action has gained momentum. Nine US Starbucks (NASDAQ:) stores have voted to host, with more than 150 seeking elections. Amazon workers responded to more personal help from labor activists as the pandemic eased, and a second Staten Island company warehouse, LDJ5, will also vote on whether or not to join a union starting April 25.

With nearly 2,700 ballots counted from workers at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island, about 57% of the vote was in favor of a union, according to a Reuters count of the count supervised by the NLRB and streamed via Zoom. The count will resume on Friday at 9:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT).

Christian Smalls, a former Amazon employee who led the union in New York, said, “To get to this point, it’s already history.” His group is called the Amazon Labor Union.

A union victory in New York “would be a triumph for unconventional organizational campaigns,” said John Logan, a labor professor at San Francisco State University. Smalls’ group made extensive use of social media during the campaign and deviated from a typical work plan, he said.

‘KEEP ON FIGHTING’

For Bessemer, Alabama, the count of about 1,900 valid ballots was completed on Thursday, but the outcome is far from certain. The NLRB said it will hold a hearing in the coming weeks to determine whether any of the 416 contested ballots should be opened and counted.

Eli Morrison, a 42-year-old Amazon worker living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, said he voted against unionization and was pleased to see the union lagging behind. He said he appreciates the flexibility Amazon gives him to include additional services, a benefit he fears losing if employees unite.

“I come in, I bust myself every day, I get things done,” said Morrison, who previously had a union job at a supermarket. “I wouldn’t do that if there was a union. It would be who’s been longest and who’s been longest doesn’t mean they did the best.”

Jennifer Bates, an early supporter of the Alabama union campaign, said, “The election isn’t over until every eligible vote has been counted, and we’ll keep fighting.”

The union organizing the effort also plans to object to Amazon’s conduct around the election, said Stuart Appelbaum, chairman of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Previously filed objections by the RWDSU led to the NLRB finding that Amazon had improperly interfered with the original Bessemer contest, prompting the board to set the results aside and call for a rematch this year.

Amazon did not immediately comment on RWDSU’s plans to object or the number of votes on Thursday. The company has said it wants the voice of its employees to be heard and is committed to continuing to make Amazon a great place to work.

As for communicating with Amazon employees during the competitions, the company said it was important for employees to know what a union would mean for their day-to-day work.

A simple majority of the votes cast is required to win. Neither the New York union nor the labor council has said how many ballots have been received on Staten Island.