Amazon Labor Union loses latest vote in Staten Island. What do workers do now?

A month after a new union started by Amazon Warehouse workers became the first to win an election in the United States in the company’s history, workers at a nearby Amazon facility voted in against unionizing with the same grassroots organization.

Workers at an Amazon package sorting center known as LDJ5 voted 618 to 380 against unionization with Amazon Labor Union (ALU), a union founded last year by fired Amazon worker Chris Smalls and several colleagues. A victory at LDJ5 would have given the union the right to negotiate a collective agreement with Amazon in two key stores that have separate but complementary functions to serve Amazon customers in the critical metropolitan area of ​​New York City. This combination may have given the organizers more influence in contract negotiations with Amazon, but that advantage seems to be gone for now.

“We are pleased that our LDJ5 team has been able to make their voices heard,” Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work directly together as we strive to make each day better for our employees.”

On Twitter, founder of ALU said Chris Smalls“Despite today’s result, I am proud of the LDJ5 workers / organizers. [T]they had a harder challenge after our victory at JFK8 “.

He added that his union “will continue to organize and so will all of you.”

The loss comes a month after the historic election at a larger nearby Amazon compliance center called JFK8. There, the union got 2,654 votes, while 2,131 voted against the organization. (Employees at Amazon delivery centers such as JFK8 collect, store, and package customers’ merchandise for 300 to 400 items per hour, while workers at sorting centers such as LDJ5 usually order pre-packaged orders by destination. geographical.) Amazon wants to launch. the results, arguing that both the union and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which oversaw the election, acted inappropriately. The NLRB has scheduled a hearing on May 23 to discuss Amazon’s objections.

Separately, Amazon is still dealing with an attempt to organize a separate union, the Retail Union, Wholesale and Department Store, in Bessemer, Alabama. Votes were counted in late March for a new election at the Alabama warehouse called BHM1, after an NLRB official ruled that Amazon illegally interfered in the first facility election in 2021. Currently , the union is just over 100 votes behind. in Bessemer, but the result is still in the air because Amazon and the union played more than 400 additional ballots together. They need to be examined at a future hearing, and potentially counted, before a final result is confirmed in the coming months. In Bessemer’s first canceled vote in 2021, workers had voted overwhelmingly in favor of Amazon.

Whether it was a victory or a defeat at LDJ5, ALU would have a tough battle, even if the original JFK8 election victory is maintained. Large anti-union employers like Amazon often try to slow down contract negotiations in the hope that organizers or workers will lose interest, especially in a workplace such as an Amazon warehouse where annual turnover rates have exceeded 100 percent. . If one year elapses after a final victory in the union elections without a collective agreement, a vote of no-confidence may occur.

“It will be a big challenge to get this first contract in a reasonable amount of time, and the workers will have to keep organizing, keep fighting and possibly take labor action to win this first contract,” Rebecca Givan said. a labor professor at Rutgers University told Recode.

This loss may make this JFK8 contract even more difficult to achieve.

Depending on your point of view, the loss in LDJ5 might suggest that ALU could only win in JFK8 because the working leaders personally knew many of the building associates and will struggle to organize any other Amazon store. Amazon operates more than 800 stores of various sizes in the United States. Some might also see the defeat as a sign that ALU, with only a fraction of the resources of the big established unions, was trying to bite more than it could chew.

On the other hand, this week’s loss could be interpreted as a mere manifestation of the overly heavy stacking of the fight against ALU. The workforce of the LDJ5 classification center consists of a higher percentage of part-time workers than JFK8, which usually complicates the organization, and Amazon spent aggressively to make sure it didn’t end up on the wrong side of history in a second consecutive union election. (Amazon spent more than $ 4 million on anti-union consultants in 2021.) Amazon’s ranking center functions also have a reputation among workers for being less stressful than some of the main functions of a more compliance center. great as JFK8.

Givan, the Rutgers teacher, said she disagreed with those who might call the first victory a coincidence after a second-place defeat.

“People who do not have a particular understanding of the broken process of the NLRB believe that the result of an election is the result of a free and fair election where workers only said whether they wanted to unionize or not and that there is no has undue influence or pressure, “Givan said. “It’s actually a demonstration of … the success of the anti-union campaign to generate fear.”

In the union campaign at JFK8’s larger facilities, the union said it wanted to boost Amazon’s leadership for large hourly increases, longer breaks for workers, and union representation during all disciplinary meetings to prevent layoffs. unfair that could aggravate the already high staff turnover. At the smaller LDJ5 rating center, organizers said one of the key motivations for unionizing was Amazon’s unwillingness to offer workers enough hours to get to the end of the month.

Hours of work “are not based on what workers want or need,” a union organizer and LDJ5 employee recently told the New York Times. “It’s based on what Amazon has found to be more efficient at the expense of workers.”

Yet, even before the loss at LDJ5, or the victory at JFK8, for that matter, the pressure of the first pandemic-era union campaign at the Bessemer, Alabama warehouse seemed to have forced Jeff You need to reconsider the treatment of the company in its staff. . In his final letter to the shareholder as CEO in 2021, he said his company needed to “do a better job for our employees”. In the same letter, Bezos announced a new mission for his company: “The best entrepreneur on Earth and the safest job on Earth.”

Then came the victory at JFK8 despite Amazon’s long history of union breakdowns in the 28 years since Jeff Bezos founded the company in 1994 as an online bookseller. But on Monday, the final turning point in the internal labor battle went Amazon’s way.

Last update, May 2, 3:40 PM ET: This story has been updated to include statements from Amazon and ALU organizer Chris Smalls.

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