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Tags: amazon union | new york | long island city

NYC Amazon Workers Try to Unionize, in Historic First

Chris Smalls
Chris Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union, stands by an information booth collecting signatures across the street from an Amazon distribution center in the Staten Island borough of New York, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. (AP)

By    |   Thursday, 24 March 2022 03:32 PM EDT

Amazon.com is about to hold union elections at two New York warehouses on Staten Island.

Amazon and New York have had a complicated history, with New York being a union-friendly city that has caused prior headaches for the e-commerce giant, The Wall Street Journal reports. Most notably, Amazon’s withdrawal of its Long Island City, N.Y., headquarters in 2019, combined with the growing grassroots unionization push in the U.S., continues the friction between the two.

The unionization push’s epicenter on Staten Island is a grassroots attempt by current and former employees, with the goal to become the first organization of Amazon workers in America to unionize. The first vote is taking place from March 25th to March 30th at the JFK8 warehouse, which employs 7,500 employees.

Unionizing on Their Own

The Journal says the unionization push is notable because the current and former workers “are operating without backing of a major labor union, an uncommon tactic, but one that organizers believe will win support from workers.”

A second unionization vote will be taking place next month during the week of April 25th at a smaller Staten Island warehouse called LDJ5.

The two votes come as tens of thousands of American workers, including Southern California supermarket employees, are picking up placards and striking across the country.

Throughout the nation, broader employee discontent is rising over working conditions and pay.

The push at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouses additionally comes as employees are increasingly willing to unionize at even at publicly traded corporations. Baristas at Starbucks in Buffalo, N.Y., and Mesa, Arizona, have voted to unionize in the past few months, and workers at an REI store in Manhattan voted to unionize in early March.

Chris Smalls, a former Amazon employee leading the push on Staten Island, told The Journal, “We hope to be like the Starbucks movement and branch out across the nation.”

Smalls’ comments represent a broader movement taking place among unionization advocates fighting for better pay. The tight U.S. labor market, accelerating inflation, and concerns over worker benefits are stoking this disgruntlement in the aftermath of two years of COVID.

An Historic First

The latest effort for Amazon workers on Staten Island comes after a failed vote in Bessemer, Alabama, last April. Despite this, the workers in Bessemer recently have been permitted to hold a second vote after a federal ruling found Amazon improperly interfered with the first vote in April, 2021.

Viewed as a historic first attempt of Amazon workers pushing to unionize, the Staten Island attempt seems to build on momentum and create a wider movement nationwide.

New York City and the e-commerce giant’s unique history comes in the aftermath of Amazon’s withdrawal of HQ2 in Long Island City, when it abruptly cancelled plans for a large headquarters and over 25,000 jobs after labor advocates raised fierce opposition.

The cancellation was, in large part prompted by, and then celebrated by, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), who tweeted at the time, “Everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed and its worker exploitation.”

AOC’s gripe? New York City and State’s initial $3 billion in tax incentives. The Congresswoman could not look past that investment to the $27.5 billion in tax revenues that Amazon would have generated, let alone the plentiful jobs and billions more that having Amazon in a New York City borough, Queens, would have generated.

Three years and a deadly pandemic later, Amazon has since raised wages and attempted to improve employee benefits. The giant made the concessions after scathing criticism from employees and observers over its response to COVID.

Fierce condemnation of Amazon’s treatment of employees has additionally come after a report last spring that showed Amazon forced delivery drivers to urinate in bottles, with the company admitting and apologizing for the practice after initially denying it was happening.

For Smalls, the unionization leader introduced earlier in the piece, this is bigger than one warehouse vote.

“We’ve had plenty of small victories along the way,” Small says. “We want to apply pressure and can still make more changes. We want to put workers in the driver’s seat.”

© 2024 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

Amazon.com is about to hold union elections at two New York warehouses on Staten Island. Amazon and New York have had a complicated history, with New York being a union-friendly city that has caused prior headaches for the e-commerce giant.
amazon union, new york, long island city
Thursday, 24 March 2022 03:32 PM
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