Amazon goes for a rematch with labour union

Amazon has accused the National Labour Relation Board’s Brooklyn office of appearing to support the union drive and alleged that labour organizers intimidated workers to vote in their favor. The union organisers have dismissed Amazon’s claims.

Updated - May 02, 2022 05:29 pm IST

Published - May 02, 2022 04:53 pm IST

File photo of Amazon’s LDJ5 sortation center in the Staten Island borough of New York, U.S.

File photo of Amazon’s LDJ5 sortation center in the Staten Island borough of New York, U.S.

In March, Amazon lost against a nascent labour movement at one of its Staten Island warehouses. The nebulous Amazon Labour Union won a bid to organise against the retail behemoth.

About 55% of the warehouse workers cast in favour of a union, giving the fledgling ALU enough support to pull off a victory. According to the National Labour Relations Board, which is overseeing the process, 2,131 workers — or 45% — rejected the union bid.

The victory was an uphill task for the union organisers, made up of former and current worker. They lacked official backing from an established union, and were out-gunned by the retail giant.

Despite obstacles, the campaigners believed their grassroots approach was more relatable to workers and could help them overcome where established unions have failed in the past. They were right.

Now, Amazon wants a rematch. The ecommerce giant is taking support from those who rejected the bid for another round of election at another Staten Island warehouse, not very far from JFK8 facility. Employees voted last week, and the results are expected to be out on Monday.  

There are far fewer workers eligible to vote in this latest election versus last month’s — about 1,500 compared with 8,300 at the neighbouring Staten Island facility. There are fewer organizers, too — roughly 10 compared with roughly 30.

“It’s a much more personal, aggressive fight over here,” said Connor Spence, an Amazon employee who works as the union’s vice president of membership, according to a report by Associated Press.

There was more support for the organizing efforts earlier this year when the ALU filed for an election. But that was quickly overshadowed by the JFK8 warehouse, where organizers were directing most of their energy.

Amazon says that it is up to employees whether or not they want to join a union. But it holds the view that unions “are the best answer” for its workers. They prefer to work directly with the workers.

But that hasn’t yielded desired results for several employees. Their demands included increased break and lunch time, higher wages, and safer working conditions.

According to data from various sources, the fulfilment centre had a high worker turnover rate, and employee injury at the facility was three times higher than the national average in U.S.

At the moment, it is unclear who will win this round. But experts note that the unexpected union win last month could solidify support as organizers have reoriented their attention to the smaller warehouse and reiterated their vision to workers.

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