Amazon Appeals Against Historic State Island Union Vote

Appeal filed by Amazon alleging misconduct by local federal office, after historic trade union vote at New York City warehouse

Amazon is not taking the historic union vote last week lying down and has filed an appeal, alleging misconduct by the local office of a federal agency.

Last week workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York became the first warehouse in Amazon’s 28-year history to successfully vote to unionise.

The Amazon Labor Union (ALU), which is not backed by any larger union and is staffed by current and former Amazon workers, won the vote by 2,654 votes to 2,131.

Image credit: Amazon
Image credit: Amazon

Amazon appeal

But Amazon has now in a filing to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleged how the independent federal agency’s regional office which oversaw the election at its Staten Island facility, “unfairly and inappropriately facilitated the [Amazon Labor Union’s] victory.”

Amazon is calling for the election to be held again, after citing 25 objections, CNN reported.

Amazon in its filing alleges the agency used an “artificially reduced number” of employees in the voting unit to calculate whether the ALU had garnered enough support to even hold an election.

It also claims the agency delayed investigating what it calls “frivolous” unfair labour practice charges that it says were “exploited” by the union.

And Amazon alleges the agency failed to properly staff the polls during the election, which ultimately “produced chaos and hours-long lines to vote on the first polling day, discouraging other employees from voting,” CNN reported.

Amazon also outlines alleged misconduct on the part of ALU, saying the union unlawfully intimidated employees and “threatened violence against its detractors.”

“Based on the evidence we’ve seen so far, as set out in our objections, we believe 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 fair and broadly representative vote can be had,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel was quoted by CNN as saying in a statement.

Last Thursday, Amazon was granted a two-week extension on filing the proof to support its objections.

The ALU did not immediately respond to a request for comment, CNN reported.

Union vote

Staff at the JFK8 facility, in the New York borough of Staten Island, had voted in-person over a five-day period.

Turnout for the in-person vote was 58 percent.

The ALU is led by Chris Smalls, a former Amazon worker who was fired after leading a protest at JFK8, over working conditions during the pandemic.

Amazon said Smalls was fired for repeatedly violating social distancing guidelines.

New York’s attorney general Letitia James is currently suing Amazon for allegedly retaliating against Smalls.

Amazon is facing more stringent scrutiny of its labour practices of late, after a sharp rise in headcount during the pandemic.

The company now employs more than 1.6 million people worldwide, and is the US’ largest employer after Walmart.

Amazon had until now, fended off every other effort to unionise in the US, as the firm publicly states that it does not think unions are the best answer for its employees.

Instead Amazon said it focuses on working directly with staff to continue making Amazon a great place to work.

Amazon wellness booth

In a filing released late last week, Amazon disclosed it spent about $4.2m in 2021 on labour consultants, who organisers say the company uses to persuade workers not to unionise.

Amazon landed itself in hot water in September 2020 over two job adverts for “intelligence analysts”, who would be responsible for reporting on activities “including labour organising threats against the company.”

Amazon however said the adverts were badly worded and withdrew the adverts, but credence was added to the suspicion it was hiring people to spy on trade unions as the job listings cited previous experience desired for the role, which said “an officer in the intelligence community, the military, law enforcement, or a related global security role in the private sector.”

To be fair, in October 2020 Amazon said it would respect the rights of workers to join a trade union.

But in February 2019, Amazon cancelled plans to build one of its second headquarters in New York, after the e-commerce giant encountered unexpected local opposition to its plans, partly down to its opposing unionisation.