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Can an upstart, independent union stage a repeat victory?
That’s the question on Staten Island this week as more Amazon warehouse workers vote on whether to join the Amazon Labor Union.
Roughly 1,500 workers who work in a facility sorting packages for delivery are eligible to vote in the election. Voting, which is taking place in person under a tent outside the warehouse, began at 4:30 a.m. on Monday and concludes at 11 p.m. on Friday.
The election comes less than a month after the Amazon Labor Union won a historic victory, unionizing the first Amazon warehouse in the U.S. — a massive facility across the street where some 8,300 workers pick and package up items for customer orders. Led by former and current Amazon workers, the Amazon Labor Union accomplished what well-established unions with deep pockets had long set their sights on but failed to accomplish.
The Amazon Labor Union is calling for longer breaks, better health and safety policy, and raises, among other demands. In Amazon warehouses, the work is fast-paced and physically demanding, with workers lifting packages as heavy as 50 pounds.
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In the weeks since the union’s win, union president Chris Smalls says he’s heard from workers at more than a hundred other Amazon facilities, expressing interest in unionizing.
Meanwhile, Amazon continues to fight back, spending millions of dollars on anti-union consultants and filing objections in the election it lost.
Amazon says the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in Brooklyn, which oversaw the election, favored the union and facilitated its victory. The company also raised objections to some of the Amazon Labor Union’s actions, charging that organizers harassed and threatened employees who weren’t supporting the union and handed out marijuana to workers in return for their support. In fact, the union organizers have spoken openly about providing workers with marijuana, but not as a bribe.
A hearing will be held to consider these objections at a future date.
Meanwhile, the union election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, still hangs in the balance, with hundreds of contested ballots unresolved. Both Amazon and the Amazon Labor Union have filed objections in that election.
And a petition for a union election at a 200-person Amazon facility in Bayonne, New Jersey, was withdrawn just days after it was filed. The union behind the petition, Local 713 International Brotherhood of Trade Union, has no contact name or number on its website. Since 2012, two of its leaders have been indicted on corruption chargers. A lawyer for the union declined further comment on the election petition or its withdrawal.