Amazon workers on Staten Island vote to form a union

Second vote in Bessemer too close to call

AMAZON WORKERS at a distribution center on Staten celebrate after getting the results of a vote to join the Amazon Labor Union on April 1. – Eduardo Munoz Avarez/AP

Amazon workers at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, have voted to unionize under the newly formed Amazon Labor Union (ALU), an upstart union formed by Christian Smalls, who was fired from his job at the Staten Island fulfillment center in March 2020 after he staged a walkout over the lack of worker protections against the coronavirus. The vote to unionize was 2,654 in favor to 2,131 against.

ALU organizers have called for higher wages, longer breaks, paid sick leave and paid time off for injuries sustained on the job, among other demands.

John Logan, director of Labor and Employment Studies at San Francisco State University, said the Staten Island vote is a strong indication of future union success.

“I don’t think that many people thought that the Amazon Labor Union had much of a chance of winning at all, and I think that we’re likely to see more of those going forward.”

The Staten Island warehouse is only the second Amazon facility to hold a union election. The first, a mail-in vote held last year at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., was invalidated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB after it found that Amazon had improperly interfered in the election by having a mailbox installed in the facility’s parking lot.

Votes in the do-over election were counted on March 31, but the results – 875 in favor to 993 against, with more than 400 ballots challenged – were deemed too close to call. A hearing will be held in coming weeks to determine if any of the contested ballots will be opened and counted.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) has been working to organize the Bessemer fulfillment center, promoting better working conditions, longer breaks and higher wages.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of RWDSU, said it is vital to get an accurate vote count.

“Every vote must be counted,” he said. “Workers at Amazon have endured a needlessly long and aggressive fight to unionize their workplace, with Amazon doing everything it could spread misinformation and deceit.

“We will hold Amazon accountable and we will be filing objections on their behavior,” he added. “Workers will have to wait just a little bit longer to ensure their voices are heard, and our union will be with them at every step to ensure their voices are heard under the law. It should not be so difficult to organize a union in the United States.”

Amazon mounted strong anti-union campaigns in Staten Island and Bessemer, including mandatory meetings where managers urged workers to vote against the unions.

Amazon officials said the company prefers to work directly with its employees rather than through “a third party,” such as a union. In a recent stock filing, the company revealed it spent $4.2 million last year on “labor consultants” to persuade workers not to organize.

Workers at a second Amazon location on Staten Island, a sorting center across the street from the warehouse, will get their chance to vote on whether to join the ALU later this month.

Illinois lawmakers advance task force to investigate Amazon warehouse collapse in Edwardsville

Springfield, IL – The Illinois House of Representatives last week approved a bill to create a task force to examine warehouse safety standards at an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville where six workers were killed on Dec. 10 when a tornado ripped through the building

Nine Republicans voted against the measure. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Safety experts have called for the state to adopt and enforce stricter safety standards for storm shelters in industrial buildings.

Amazon testified in an earlier hearing that the 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse met code safety standards, but the National Storm Shelter Association said the building lacked “hardened spaces” built to withstand tornados to protect workers.

Lawmakers said the Warehouse Safety Standards Task Force will take a wide view of warehouse safety issues, from incidents of extreme heat to an Edwardsville victim’s message to his girlfriend on the night of the tornado that Amazon would not let employees leave despite an early warning that the storm was approaching.

SIX AMAZON WORKERS were killed when a tornado ripped through the company’s warehouse in Edwardsville, Ill. Dec. 10, 2021

“This investigation will inform legislative efforts to curb unfair labor practices, strengthen protections for workers and address the effects of climate change on worker safety,” lawmakers said.

If approved by the state Senate, the task force will include four state representatives, four senators and representatives of retailers, manufacturers, mayors, unions and warehouse workers. They are to report quarterly and give a final report by Jan. 1, 2025.

“I look forward to hearing from experts in engineering, code enforcement, the building trades and all the fields that will help us make informed decisions as we move forward,” said Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville) a sponsor of the task force plan.



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