Amazon Labor Union Suffers First Loss in Second Staten Island Warehouse Vote - Reports

© AP Photo / Craig RuttlePeople arrive for work at the Amazon distribution center in the Staten Island borough of New York, on Oct. 25, 2021.
People arrive for work at the Amazon distribution center in the Staten Island borough of New York, on Oct. 25, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.05.2022
A month after winning a stunning first victory in a Staten Island warehouse, Amazon Labor Union (ALU) had hoped a second Amazon facility in the New York borough would also vote to be represented by them.
A week of voting by the roughly 1,500 Amazon employees at the LDJ5 warehouse in New York’s Staten Island ended on Monday, revealing whether they want to be collectively represented by the ALU in bargaining with the ecommerce giant.
As the votes began to be tallied on Monday, the Associated Press reported that enough "no" votes had been counted for it to be impossible for the ALU to win the union drive in LDJ5.
Just over a month ago, the ALU scored its first organising victory when the much larger JFK8 warehouse, also on Staten Island but more than five times the size of LDJ5, voted to join the ALU. The union was founded by Christian Smalls, a former employee at JFK8 who was fired in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic after trying to organise fellow Amazon employees to demand better safety protections against the deadly virus that has now killed nearly one million Americans.

“After I was terminated, they had a meeting about me - Jeff Bezos, and the general counsel - calling me not smart or articulate”, Smalls told ABC News after the win. “And, ironically, they also said to make me the face of the whole unionization efforts”.

About a week after the victory, Smalls said employees representing 100 Amazon facilities had contacted the ALU and expressed their interest in organising.

“The ALU is in a strong position because if they win, they’ve harnessed the momentum and they’ve shown that this is really building to something”, Rebecca Givan, an associate professor of labour studies at Rutgers University, told The Washington Post about the LDJ5 vote. “And if they lose, they’ve just shone a light on the brutality of the union busting”.

At a 24 April rally to kick off the LDJ5 vote, democratic socialist lawmakers Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) spoke, with the latter referring to JFK8 as “the first domino to fall”.
On Monday, Yahoo Finance reported that Amazon had filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which regulates labour unions and the collective bargaining process, claiming the ALU had “improperly suppressed and influenced the vote” at JFK8. If the NLRB agrees, it could overturn the results of the vote.

The ecommerce and Internet services giant founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994 has always been ardently anti-union, employing a variety of union-busting practices as wide as the litany of complaints brought against the company by its workers. Amazon is also accused of forcing employees in facilities trying to unionise into watching anti-union presentations, and even of hiring full-time veteran union-busters to spy on and disrupt organising activities.

Amazon workers have long complained about long work shifts without bathroom breaks, a high degree of surveillance of their work, and inadequate attention given to safety, including against the spread of COVID-19. Suicide is a common concern at Amazon facilities: The Daily Beast found that 189 emergency calls relating to suicide were made between 2003 and 2018.

Many of these have only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first six months of the pandemic, Bezos’ wealth ballooned by $48 billion, and in 2020, Amazon’s profits increased by 84% over the previous year as billions of people stayed home for safety, creating a massive demand for product deliveries. In 2021, the company added another 22% growth, bringing in $469 billion in revenue, according to company earnings reports.

Last year, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found Amazon unfairly intervened in the union drive at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, leading to a redo in March. After that vote failed, the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union (RWDSU) filed new interference complaints with the NLRB.
However, after the ALU victory at JFK8, the company reportedly stepped up its efforts, especially in LDJ5 in anticipation of its own union vote.

“Amazon’s tactics have gotten very, very intense”, Madeline Wesley, an Amazon warehouse worker at LDJ5 and ALU treasurer who was written up for “soliciting” her co-workers, told Vice in mid-April. “They’re getting away with lots of illegal anti-union activity”.

According to Wesley, the company has also repeatedly taken down a pro-union banner in the facility breakroom and confiscated pro-union literature.
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