Amazon workers face historic union elections in New York City and Alabama

Amazon workers face historic union elections in New York City and Alabama
·3 min read

As Amazon workers in Alabama prepare for another election to decide whether to form a union, the retail giant will face another election – in New York City.

Warehouse workers at the company’s Staten Island facility have collected enough signatures to hold a union election, teeing up another milestone campaign at the nation’s second-largest private employer, with outcomes that could resonate across the nation’s workforce.

The National Labor Relations Board found a “sufficient showing of interest” among New York workers to set up an election. The ruling comes just days before ballots are sent out to workers in Bessemer, Alabama, holding another election after officials determined that the company’s anti-union efforts “hijacked” the campaign.

An election petition from Amazon Labor Union – the workers’ group organising New York City workers at the JFK8 warehouse – was rejected last year after failing to collect enough signatures.

Organiser Christian Smalls – who was fired after staging a walkout to protest pandemic working conditions – said the group collected more than 2,500 signatures this year.

Union organisers have called for higher, more competitive wages, time-off increases, and stronger workplace protections against Covid-19 and other hazards, among other demands.

A hearing to determine the dates and rules of the election is scheduled for 16 February.

Following a failed bid to unionise roughly 6,000 workers in Alabama last year, Amazon workers at the Bessemer plant will get another chance next week.

Ballots for that election will be delivered on 4 February and will be due by 25 March. A vote count is scheduled for 28 March.

In November, a labour board officer determined that Amazon showed a “flagrant disregard” for the mail-in ballot election, arguing that the company “essentially highjacked the process and gave a strong impression that it controlled the process.”

Union organisers vowed to challenge the results of the closely watched election, alleging that the company mounted an aggressive and illegal anti-union campaign that had drawn international scrutiny.

Workers gained support from President Joe Biden and progressive members of Congress, as well as Senator Bernie Sanders, who held rallies with workers.

Warehouse management coordinated with the US Postal Service and Amazon headquarters to stage a ballot dropbox in front of the warehouse under a tent provided by the company, which union organisers allege was used to intimidate workers.

The labour board’s notice of a second election accused Amazon of interfering with “employees’ exercise of a free and reasoned choice by creating the appearance of irregularity in the election.” It also accused Amazon of “improperly polling employees’ support during mandatory meetings.”

In a statement, spokesperson Kelly Nantel said Amazon is “skeptical that there are a sufficient number of legitimate signatures” for the Staten Island election, “and we’re seeking to understand how these signatures were verified.”

“Our employees have always had a choice of whether to join a union, and as we saw just a few months ago, the vast majority of our team in Staten Island did not support [the union],” she said in a statement to The Independent .

Mr Smalls said the votes have been verified by the labour board against payroll.

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