Amazon Union Vote Looking Good In Staten Island, Bessemer Not Over Yet!

Class War
Amazon Union Vote Looking Good In Staten Island, Bessemer Not Over Yet!

Last year, Amazon spent more than $4 million on anti-union "consultants," many of whom were paid $3,200 a day to hang around their plants in Bessemer, Alabama, and Staten Island, New York. There, they discouraged workers from voting to unionize and held "captive audience meetings" in which workers were required to sit and listen to these consultants talk about how bad organized labor is, as if what Amazon is really concerned about is workers having to pay union dues and not having to pay those workers more.

They may soon find out it was all for naught: It's looking as though workers at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse are likely to vote to unionize. Vote tallying started on Wednesday, and they are currently down to the last box of votes — the tally is 2050 in favor and 1574 against, a difference of 476 votes. The margins have been widening with each tally, so it's real tough to see how Amazon could eke out a win here.

The leader of the effort to unionize the Staten Island warehouse is former Amazon worker Chris Smalls, who was fired in 2020 for protesting the company's lack of COVID-19 safety conditions.

Via BBC:

For 11 months, the 33-year-old and his team have staked out a spot opposite his former workplace, the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island, intercepting staff on their way home to make the case that they need a union to fight for them in negotiations with the e-commerce giant.

His team are seeking higher pay, longer breaks, more paid time off and paid medical leave, among other changes. They want to convince workers that a union will be a more effective way to raise complaints over rules like one that requires staff to work unscheduled overtime shifts.[...]

Organisers say the stakes are nothing short of the future of the American worker, pointing to Amazon's rank as the second largest employer in the US.

"We need to take down Amazon. We need these workers to organise," says Derrick Palmer, who helped Mr Smalls organise his 2020 protest and was also disciplined (but not fired) by Amazon, which cited social distancing violations. "We need them to know they have the power."

Things have not been so hopeful in Bessemer, Alabama, where about 53 percent of the workforce has voted against unionization. Still, while many outlets have reported that the workers there rejected unionization, there are 416 challenged ballots left to be counted — about 15 percent of the total votes — that could still swing the election in the union's favor.

Even if the union doesn't win in Alabama, it's a big difference from the plant's vote last year, in which workers voted 2 to 1 against unionization. This was likely due to the fact that Amazon pressured the US Postal Service to install a mailbox on Amazon property, controlled by its own security guards, so they could keep an eye on those voting in the election, and engaged in a lot of other shady anti-union activities — which is why the NLRB allowed the workers to hold a second election this year.

However, even just one plant voting to unionize is a huge deal, both as a victory for labor advocates who have been critical of Amazon's labor practices and union-busting activities for years, and for Amazon workers as a whole. Because when one group of workers unionize, other workers see that it can be done and see how well it works for them, and they end up voting in favor of unionization as well.

Amazon is spending that money for a reason. It didn't spend $4.3 million in one year on "anti-union consultants" to prevent one or two warehouses from unionizing — which would obviously cost the company a lot less than $4.3 million. They did it because they knew that those warehouses unionizing will make it really difficult to scare other workers out of unionizing once they see that the sky didn't fall and the workers at the unionized warehouses are getting a better deal than they are.

So here's hoping, for workers everywhere, that Staten Island manages to pull this one off. And hell, Alabama too.

Do your Amazon shopping through this link, because reasons.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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