Staten Island Amazon workers file for union vote

Staten Island Amazon workers file for union vote
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Workers at a New York Amazon warehouse Monday filed a petition to hold a unionization vote, months after a first attempt at a similar vote in Bessemer, Ala., fell short.

Organizers at the Staten Island facility say they have gathered more than 2,000 signed cards authorizing a worker-led group called the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) to represent them.

The group is headed by Christian Smalls, a former worker at the facility whose firing toward the start of the coronavirus pandemic drew national attention, and is not formally tied to any existing labor unions. 

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will have to validate the request to eventually hold a vote. The Staten Island facility has roughly 6,000 workers and the board normally requires at least 30 percent of the proposed bargaining unit to sign cards.

A spokesperson for Amazon, which has strongly opposed unionization efforts at other locations, questioned whether the ALU has gathered enough signatures. 

“We’re skeptical that a sufficient number of legitimate employee signatures has been secured to warrant an election,” Kelly Nantel said in a statement to The Hill. “If there is an election, we want the voice of our employees to be heard and look forward to it.”

Workers at the facility say that the e-commerce giant has aggressively fought back against the union, plastering break areas and restrooms with signs and bringing in consultants to “divide the workers.”

The NLRB reportedly determined earlier this year that Amazon illegally prohibited the ALU from handing out pro-union literature at the Staten Island facility, JFK8. 

Smalls and his fellow organizers hope that the ALU’s efforts will succeed where the campaign in Alabama fell short.

The election in Bessemer is likely to be held again after an NLRB field hearing officer determined that Amazon interfered in the process by pushing for the installation of a mailbox outside the plant, but the push there still faces up an uphill battle given that workers initially voted 2-1 against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

The petition to form a union in New York comes amid a rising tide of labor activism, with workers at John Deere, Nabisco and Kellogg warehouses on strike pushing for higher wages and increased protections.