Amazon Workers Vote Union In at NYC Warehouse
By Trevor R. Brice and Tim Murphy - Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C.
April 6, 2022
Amazon warehouse workers in New York City voted to unionize last week, marking the first time Amazon workers have done so in the U.S. The Staten Island warehouse, known as JFK8, employs about 8,000 workers. Amazon has until April 8 to dispute the election results.
One of the most notable aspects of this story is that it was a grassroots effort without significant support from Organized Labor. The Amazon Labor Union (“ALU”) was formed by Christian Smalls (“Smalls”) and run with limited funding. Smalls, who worked at JFK8 for a period of time, got started by organizing employee walkouts to protest management’s handling of COVID-19 at the warehouse. Amazon later fired him from his warehouse job, but Smalls kept at it. Some have likened him David to Amazon’s Goliath.
Sign of Things to Come or Another False Dawn?
This Amazon vote follows a string of organizing victories for unions, including Google Fiber workers in Missouri, sales employees at REI in New York, technology workers at the New York Times, and baristas at Starbucks cafes in New York, Arizona and Washington. Nevertheless, union membership remains at historic lows nationwide.
It is impossible to say whether this one vote, as noteworthy as it is, is a harbinger for the future. Sometimes these votes are down to unique local conditions. It may be that the vote doesn’t even start a trend at Amazon. Union elections are scheduled at Amazon facilities in Alabama and another on Staten Island. Those votes will tell us more about what is in store for Amazon and, may tell us more about the future labor movement.
No matter what happens at Amazon, non-unionized employers should not ignore unions. Not thinking about them doesn’t keep them away. Staying abreast of developments, understanding why workers want to join unions, and educating supervisors, managers, and executives about unions and positive employee relations remain smart decisions in uncertain times.
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