Amazon loses key effort to overturn historic union vote. : NPR

Workers line up to vote on unionization at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse on March 25.

Robert Bumsted/AP

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Robert Bumsted/AP

Workers line up to vote on unionization at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse on March 25.

Robert Bumsted/AP

Amazon appears to be losing its lawsuit to unravel the union victory that formed the company’s first organized warehouse in the United States

After workers in Staten Island, NY, voted to join the Amazon Labor Union this spring, the company appealed the outcome. A federal labor official has presided over weeks of hearings into the case and is now recommending that Amazon’s objections be dismissed in their entirety and the union be certified.

“Today is a great day for Labour,” tweeted ALU President Chris Smalls, who launched the union after Amazon fired him from the Staten Island warehouse following his involvement in a strike in the time of the pandemic.

The case has drawn a lot of attention as it weighs in on the fate of the first – and so far only – successful union push into an Amazon warehouse in the United States. It is also large-scale, organizing more than 8,000 workers in the huge factory.

Staten Island workers voted to unionize by more than 500 votes, delivering a decisive victory to a grassroots group known as the Amazon Labor Union. The group is led by current and former warehouse employees, known as JFK8.

The union now has another New York warehouse in sight: Workers at an Amazon plant near Albany have collected enough signatures to petition the National Labor Relations Board for their own election.

However, Amazon opposed the union’s victory, accusing the NLRB’s regional office in Brooklyn – which oversaw the election – of acting in favor of the Amazon Labor Union. Amazon also accused the ALU of coercing and misleading warehouse workers.

“As we have shown throughout the hearing with dozens of witnesses and hundreds of pages of documents, the NLRB and ALU improperly influenced the outcome of the election and we do not believe that this represents what the majority of our team wants,” an Amazon spokesperson. Kelly Nantel said in a statement Thursday that the company would appeal the hearing officer’s finding.

The officer’s report serves as a recommendation for a formal decision by the National Labor Relations Board, which does not have to follow the recommendation, although it usually does. Amazon has until September 16 to file its objections. If the company fails to influence the NLRB, the agency will require the company to enter into negotiations with the union.

At stake in all of this is the future path of unionization at Amazon, where unions have long struggled to gain a foothold, while its sprawling network of warehouses has propelled the company to rank as the second-largest private U.S. employer.

In the spring, two previous elections failed to form unions at two other Amazon warehouses. Workers at another smaller Staten Island warehouse voted against joining the ALU.

And in Alabama, workers staged a new vote after U.S. labor officials found Amazon unfairly influenced the original 2021 election, but the new election results remain disputed.

In this vote in Alabama, the NLRB has yet to rule on the contested ballots by both the union and Amazon, which could influence the election results. The agency is also evaluating accusations of unfair labor practices by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union which is trying to organize Alabama warehouse workers.

Editor’s note: Amazon is one of NPR’s recent financial backers.

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