Fresh off their historic win confronting online retailer Amazon, Staten Island warehouse workers who voted to form a union before this month are loading upward their arsenal as the cyberspace behemoth ratchets upward its defenses against the upstart group.
Amazon has filed more than two dozen objections with the National Labor Relations Board and seeks to overturn the Amazon Labor Union victory at the Staten Island JFK8 warehouse. The company argues that the union intimidated workers into voting in favor of organizing and alleges that the federal agency gave the ALU preferential treatment by filing a lawsuit against the internet retailer ahead of the vote.
And that’s not fifty-fifty the toughest boxing the self-organized workers face.
Amazon Labor Union leaders are readying themselves for what they consider “the existent fight” — winning a commonage bargaining agreement against Amazon, one of the earth’south biggest and best-resourced companies. Company lawyers take tools at their disposal to delay or head off contract bargaining by burying the union in bureaucratic record or stalling negotiations.
Solidarity is now the theme for union leaders, who are holding out an olive branch to employees who voted “no” amid a trigger-happy anti-wedlock corporate campaign that included mandatory worker meetings that the NLRB’s superlative lawyer is seeking to abolish.
“I want to thank all of the workers who voted yeah, and fifty-fifty the ones that are misinformed. We’re here to inform you that this is non a war betwixt us. Permit’due south unify and permit’south bargain the contract of our dreams,” said Angelika Maldonado, a packer at JFK8 and chair of the ALU’south Workers Commission, during a news briefing Friday afternoon at Amazon’s warehouse complex on Staten Island.
“I thought I was fighting a fight from October to April, but this is the existent fight at present. And if nosotros fight together, we can defeat the beast,” said Maldonado.
With roughly $100,000 raised through donations via a GoFundMe and some volunteer aid, the contained grouping of current and one-time Amazon workers at the Staten Island warehouse pulled off the unthinkable and defeated the cyberspace giant past more than 500 votes.
The underdog win is emboldening workers across the country. Amazon employees effectually the nation have been reaching out to the ALU for tips on how to replicate their success, according to organizers. And a major Democratic-tied political consulting firm is dropping its work for Amazon following news of their involvement.
Meanwhile, the ALU’s GoFundMe is now up to $225,000 toward a $500,000 goal, money that organizers are using to ready for a second Amazon worker vote on Staten Isle, starting April 25.
That warehouse, called LDJ5, is smaller than JFK8 across the street, with just 1,500 workers compared to over 8,000. How urgently the LDJ5 workers will feel the demand to join a union remains untested — and there’due south no guarantee that they’ll follow their neighbors and vote yes.
‘Look Out for Each Other’
Derrick Palmer, vice president of organizing for the Amazon Labor Union and a worker at JFK8, told THE CITY that the LDJ5 sorting center jobs there are less grueling than those at his society-fulfillment facility.
“The workers have unlike schedules then they don’t work the brutal 10 hours similar they do at JFK8,” Palmer said. He chosen organizing them “a little more of a claiming because they’re not going through what these workers went through.” JFK8 workers like himself, he noted, don’t have access to enter LDJ5 to engage workers and reply their questions.
At JFK8, the intermission rooms proved to be a lifeline for worker-organizers, who set tables with literature and food where they were able to engage colleagues directly on the job. Workers at JFK8 make upwardly the majority of the current Amazon employees in the spousal relationship leadership squad.
Working in the union’southward favor now, on the other mitt, is the LDJ5’south distribution center’south more compact layout, in contrast to JFK8’s sprawling four stories where workers sift through items to pick and pack customers’ orders. With only one flooring and a fraction of the staff, “information technology’ll exist easier to organize” LDJ5, said Palmer.
“Considering we work at one of the warehouses, doesn’t mean we can go into all of them,” Maldonado told THE CITY Friday, minutes before her 12-hour shift was slated to begin. “So we would take to work from the outside.”
The ALU is planning on deploying already-proven tactics — hosting barbecues exterior of the warehouse, offering bootleg food to workers heading in and out of their shifts, and hosting events, said Palmer. Organizers continue to connect with workers at the MTA bus stop serving the facilities — where 33-year-old matrimony president Chris Smalls, a former Amazon supervisor fired by the company, spent months talking upwards potential members and where plans to spend the days leading upward to the next vote.
The unionization drive was sparked past Smalls’ termination in the leap of 2020 for allegedly breaking safety guidelines after organizing a protestation over what workers declared were inadequate COVID-protection measures.
The Amazon Labor Union demands remain the same at LDJ5: a $30 an hour minimum wage, ameliorate working weather, including ii paid 30-minute breaks and an hour-long paid lunch break, better medical get out, additional paid time off and eliminating productivity rates that require workers to option a sure number of items an hour.
“That’s just a building. When it’s family, nosotros still have to await out for each other. So of course nosotros’ll exist there supporting them, giving strategies that worked for u.s. at JFK8. Luckily they don’t take viii,000 workers,” Maldonado added.
Phone Ringing Off the Hook
In the week since the ALU pulled off the history-making upset, the once-long shot organizers accept been catapulted into the spotlight.
President Joe Biden concluding week offered his support for the union. The bus finish has been buzzing with cameras and reporters seeking to talk to Smalls and other workers.
Dozens of journalists from major national outlets and from away flocked to 5th Street, the bucolic road that separates JFK8 and LDJ5 for the ALU’s Friday press briefing as cars and trucks collection by honking in support. The day before, leading organizers for the matrimony were in Washington, D.C., coming together with elected officials and marriage leaders, which they chronicled on their TikTok.
On Saturday, the ALU received a hero’s welcome at the Labor Lunch in Albany for the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislators Conclave Weekend, a yearly gathering of lawmakers of color.
Workers from more than 100 Amazon warehouses throughout the 50 states have already reached out to the ALU for assistance in organizing their facilities, Smalls said, as have workers from Walmart, Target and Dollar Full general.
“Information technology’s great that they’re watching us because we desire to get it done and we want to motivate them to organize and if they demand our help, communication, whatever we tin offer, we’re gonna exercise so,” Smalls said.
“These workers never idea nigh joining a union. They thought we were crazy for doing this shit and at present expect. They’re contacting us through Twitter, Instagram, e-mail, Facebook, everything. We woke upward the world and we shook upward the union movement,” Palmer said.
As they set their eyes toward the future and scaling upwards their operations, the matrimony is beginning to interview lawyers, contract negotiators and communications staff if they’re going to go to war with Amazon.
They also plan to piece of work with other more established unions, like the Teamsters who have offered to assistance their efforts, Smalls added.
With Amazon challenging the outcome of the vote, delaying the NLRB’s certification procedure until later this month, it could be several more weeks, even months, until the company and the ALU start negotiating their first contract — an result Amazon is seeking to avert by objecting to the vote results.
“We’ve always said that nosotros want our employees to have their voices heard, and in this instance, that didn’t happen – fewer than a third of the employees at the site voted for the wedlock, and overall turnout was unusually low,” said Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel.
Roughly half of the eligible eight,300 JFK8 workers voted in the union election, with ii,654 voting in favor of a union versus 2,131 who voted against.
Nantel added that “the actions of the NLRB and the ALU improperly suppressed and influenced the vote, and we think the election should be conducted again so that a off-white and broadly representative vote can be had.”
The NLRB reiterated its previous argument decrying Amazon’s allegations, telling the Washington Post that the bureau “is an independent federal agency that Congress has charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act,” said Kayla Blado. “All NLRB enforcement actions against Amazon have been consistent with that congressional mandate.”
Amazon did not reply specific questions on how it contends the wedlock swayed the vote or if the company planned on deploying different tactics with the upcoming election at LDJ5.
With “unlimited resource,” the multi-billion-dollar company could continuously delay and fight the marriage, said State Sen. Diane Savino, whose Staten Island commune borders the Amazon warehouses.
“That’southward what I’m near concerned about. They take unlimited resource, plainly, and the business organization is that they’re not going to take this lying downwardly. And so how they decide to treat their low-wage workforce should send a bulletin to all their consumers around the world,” Savino said.
Already, organizations that Amazon hired to help dissuade workers from unionizing are getting blowback.
Global Strategy Group, a Democratic polling and consulting firm hired by Amazon to provide guidance over employee communications and benefits at JFK8, told THE Metropolis information technology is no longer working with Amazon post-obit a CNBC report that the business firm was assisting Amazon’s efforts.
“While there were inaccuracies in the description of our work, we regret beingness involved in whatsoever fashion and have resigned this work with Amazon,” said Tanya Meck, a partner and managing director at Global Strategy Group.
The withdrawal came subsequently the Nevada Democratic Political party announced it would “absolutely not exist working with” Global Strategy Group, which also has ties to the New York Autonomous Party, Gov. Kathy Hochul and former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The head of the New York Democratic Party, Jay Jacobs, did not respond to messages request if the party would continue to piece of work with the company. Hochul’s campaign declined to annotate on whether information technology would continue working with GSG, instead pointing to a tweet of the governor congratulating the Amazon Labor Union.
‘The Cavalry Has Come up’
The protracted road ahead points to the weakness of the country’s labor laws, said Sharon Block, professor at Harvard Law School and executive director of the school’s Labor & Worklife Program.
Aside from Amazon’s objections to the vote, information technology could exist a long route to getting the visitor and the ALU to concur on a contract. While the NLRB requires employers to bargain in adept faith once the results conclude, there’south no requirement that workers and their bosses attain a bargain on a contract — a point that Amazon officials drilled into during a so-chosen convict audience coming together at JFK8.
“The visitor and the union must bargain in good organized religion…. That means that they must agree to meet at a reasonable time in private and endeavour to reach an agreement. The law does not say that they have to reach an agreement. They just have to try to,” an Amazon workforce staffing director said at a meeting obtained past THE CITY.
“Amazon, I think, has demonstrated that they are willing to get to swell lengths to prevent their workers from having a union,” Block said. “And because the incentives in the law are to play this out as long every bit possible, if you’re a company that mistakenly but notwithstanding believes that you want to go on the union out of your workplace, the law provides a path for you that is essentially costless to push button the date out as much as possible.”
The leaders of the Amazon Labor Wedlock say they’re not afraid of what’s coming down the superhighway.
“The cavalry has come,” said Smalls on Friday. “Information technology is still coming. So Amazon, exist prepared considering we’re coming.”
“This is not just an opportunity. This is non simply a moment. This is history correct now, right at present. We gotta make certain we bust our ass and we brand certain that nosotros get a matrimony for LDJ5,” Palmer told the crowd Friday. “Like I said, we’re gonna whoop Amazon’south donkey. Nosotros’re gonna win this. We’re gonna win.”