Amazon Staten Island Warehouse Votes To Unionise In ‘Historic’ Move

Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, have voted to unionise, in what labour leaders called a “historic victory”.

The facility is the first warehouse in Amazon’s 28-year history to successfully vote to unionise.

The Amazon Labor Union, which is not backed by any larger union and is staffed by current and former Amazon workers, won the vote by a wide margin of 2,654 votes to 2,131.Turnout for the in-person vote was 58 percent.

“To be leading in day one and be up a couple hundred against a trillion-dollar company, this is the best feeling in the world,” Smalls said after the conclusion of voting late last week.

Image credit: Amazon

In-person vote

“Welcome the 1st union in America for Amazon,” he added on Twitter.

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

The decisive win comes at a times of rising support for unions in the United States, according to research by Pew.

Amazon is also facing much more stringent scrutiny of its labour practices 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 Wal-Mart.

Union movement

Amazon has so far fended off every other effort to unionise in the US, with controversial tactics including mandatory staff meetings during work hours.

The company commented that it invests in wages and benefits, such as health care, 401(k) plans and a prepaid college tuition programme for workers.

“As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” the company said in a statement. “Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work.”

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.

Seth Goldstein, a pro bono attorney who has represented the Amazon Labor Union in Staten Island through the election proceedings, said that worker engagement had been “key” to the win.

‘Historic victory’

“Worker engagement has been the key to this historic victory and can be attributed to increased nationwide union organising in digital, tech, non-profit and Starbucks.”

He said “gen Z and millennial workers” were leading the charge in union organising.

The union plans to seek longer breaks, paid time off for injured employees and a higher hourly wage.

Smalls, who leads the ALU, was dismissed from the Staten Island warehouse in March 2020 over what the company called violations of social distancing requirements and “putting the safety of others at risk”.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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