Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Sunday, Jun 04, 2023

Amazon workers win battle to form first US union

Amazon workers win battle to form first US union

A team of Amazon workers has forced the technology giant to recognise a trade union in the US for the first time.

Workers at a New York warehouse voted 55% in favour of joining the Amazon Labor Union.

The group is led by former Amazon worker Chris Smalls, who made his name protesting against safety conditions at the retail giant during the pandemic.

Mr Smalls' victory marks a major defeat for Amazon, which had fiercely fought against unionisation.

However, in Alabama, where Amazon was facing a separate union drive, the company appeared to have fended off activists in a tight contest in which challenged ballots could yet overturn that result.

Together, the two elections mark a milestone for activists, who have long decried labour practices at Amazon, the country's second largest employer.

Mr Smalls emerged from the vote count looking tired but jubilant, and popped open a bottle of champagne he was handed by supporters.

"We did whatever it took to connect with these workers," he told the crowd, recounting an against-the-odds campaign that started with "two tables, two chairs and a tent" and relied on an online fundraiser for money.

"I hope that everybody's paying attention now because a lot of people doubted us."

In a statement, Amazon said it was disappointed by the loss in New York and that it was evaluating how to proceed. It also accused regulators of improperly influencing the vote.

"We believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees," the company said. "We're evaluating our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence by the [National Labor Relations Board]".

Amazon fired Christian Smalls in 2020 after his protest, citing quarantine violations

Rebecca Givan, professor of labour studies at Rutgers University, said Amazon's defeat by Mr Smalls and his team of worker-organisers was a "really big deal", calling it a "David and Goliath story" that upset the odds.

But she warned he will be facing another tough fight when it comes to contract negotiations.

"Amazon will do everything it can do undo this success, to break up these workers and to try to stop the momentum that will inevitably come from this victory," she said.

Amazon mistakes?

Amazon has already poured resources into fighting the unionising efforts, which it sees as an obstacle to business flexibility and warehouse efficiency.

Officials have said the company offers competitive pay and benefits and believes it is better to work directly with workers. In meetings about the vote, representatives questioned union leaders' ability to win more in contract negotiations.

Amazon said it may challenge the results, citing the timing of a decision by the National Labor Relations Board to sue the company last month alleging unfair labour practices in New York.

As part of its statement, it shared comments by two of the country's most powerful business lobbies also raising objections, including a letter from the National Retail Federation to congressional leaders that called for an investigation of the matter.

More than 4,000 votes were cast in the New York election

Mr Smalls said he was undaunted by the challenges ahead.

The 33-year-old had worked for Amazon for more than four years before the company fired him in 2020, after his coronavirus protest, citing quarantine violations.

He established the Amazon Labor Union last year, calling for higher pay, stronger medical benefits, anti-discrimination policies and better leave among other changes.

The 2,654 to 2,131 victory gives his group the right to negotiate a contract with Amazon for the roughly 8,000 workers at the Staten Island warehouse.

His team is also behind a second union campaign at a smaller warehouse in the same industrial park, which is scheduled for a vote later this month.

"There's no doubt in my mind we're going to be successful in that one as well," he said.

Organisers said Amazon made critical mistakes ahead of the vote, such as pushing to reverse policies relaxed under Covid, including allowing workers to keep their mobiles with them while working.

Amazon Labor Union secretary Karen Ponce says defeating Amazon wasn't easy

Still they said their win in some ways surprised even them, despite the intense efforts they had made to reach out to workers and make their case ahead of the vote.

"Watching all of this come true is pretty crazy," said Karen Ponce, Amazon worker and secretary of the Amazon Labor Union.

Wider movement

The union drives at Amazon come amid an upswell of labour activism in the US.

In recent months, organisers have led successful campaigns at coffee chain Starbucks, media outlets, smaller retailers and others.

Analysts say the pandemic galvanised workers worried about their safety. The rapid rebound of the economy since the coronavirus shock has also produced an unusually tight labour market, giving workers more leverage.

But across the US, just 6.1% of private sector workers belong to unions.

"It continues to be very difficult for workers to organize collectively," Prof Givan said.

What was the outcome of the Amazon union election in Alabama?

In Alabama, workers at the Bessemer warehouse voted 993 to 875 against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, regulators said on Thursday.

More than 400 challenged ballots have yet to be counted and could change that result.

The unofficial tally showed a much closer election than the lopsided victory that Amazon claimed after last year's election, which regulators later declared invalid, ordering a do-over citing labour rule violations by Amazon.

Amazon appeared to have headed off a separate union challenge at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama

Turnout was also lower, with less than 40% of the more than 6,000 people working at the Bessemer warehouse casting votes in the election.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, which led the unionising drive in Alabama, said he was excited by the possibility of a union victory in New York.

Crediting Mr Smalls and his team, he also said their win in part reflected differences between New York - where one in five workers is unionised - and Alabama, which is a notoriously anti-labour state.

He said his union's initial union effort at the Amazon warehouse in Alabama last year had "ignited a movement".

"Regardless of the final outcome, workers here have shown what is possible," he said at a press conference on Thursday following the Alabama count. "This is a sign of more to come."

AI Disclaimer: An advanced artificial intelligence (AI) system generated the content of this page on its own. This innovative technology conducts extensive research from a variety of reliable sources, performs rigorous fact-checking and verification, cleans up and balances biased or manipulated content, and presents a minimal factual summary that is just enough yet essential for you to function as an informed and educated citizen. Please keep in mind, however, that this system is an evolving technology, and as a result, the article may contain accidental inaccuracies or errors. We urge you to help us improve our site by reporting any inaccuracies you find using the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of this page. Your helpful feedback helps us improve our system and deliver more precise content. When you find an article of interest here, please look for the full and extensive coverage of this topic in traditional news sources, as they are written by professional journalists that we try to support, not replace. We appreciate your understanding and assistance.

Related Articles

Nvidia Joins Tech Giants as First Chipmaker to Reach $1 Trillion Valuation
Drone Attack on Moscow's Wealthiest Neighborhoods Suspected to be Launched by Ukraine
Elon Musk Meets Chinese Finance Minister in Beijing
AI ‘extinction’ should be same priority as nuclear war – experts
Prominent Hacker Forum RaidForums Suffers Substantial Data Breach
Nvidia CEO Huang says firms, individuals without AI expertise will be left behind
WPP Revolutionizes Advertising with NVIDIA's AI Powerhouse
Two US Employees Fired For Chasing Robbers Out Of Store As They Broke ''Company Policy''
If you donated to BLM, you got played
Pfizer, the EU, and disappearing ink - Smoke, Mirrors, and the Billion-Dose Pfizer Vaccine Deal: EU's 'Open Secret
Actor Tom Hanks told Harvard University graduates to be superheroes in their defense of truth and American ideals, and to resist those who twist the truth for their own gain
The Sussexes' Royal Rebound: Could Harry and Meghan Markle Return to the UK?
A provocative study suggests: Left-Wing Extremism and its Unsettling Connection to Psychopathy and Narcissism
France Arrests 10 on Suspicion of Failing to Respond in Time to Migrant Drowning
Neuralink Receives FDA Approval for First-in-Human Clinical Study
Is Saudi Arabia the holiest place in the world? Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions from "The Mount Sinai Stand" Discovered in Saudi Arabia
Ukrainian Intelligence Official Admits to Assassination Attempts on Putin
Bernard Arnault Loses $11.2 Billion in One Day as Investors Fear Slowdown in US Growth Will Reduce Demand for Luxury Products
Russian’s Wagner Group leader: “I am not a chef, I am a butcher. Russia is in danger of a revolution like in 1917.”
TikTok Sues Montana Over Law Banning the App
Ron DeSantis Jumps Into 2024 Presidential Race, Setting Up Showdown With Trump
Last Walmart in North Portland Closing Down
Florida's DeSantis seeks to disqualify judge in Disney case
Talks between US House Republicans and President Biden's Democratic administration on raising the federal government's $31.4tn debt ceiling have paused
Biden Administration Eyeing High-Profile Visits to China: The Biden Administration is heating things up by looking into setting up a series of top-level visits to Beijing by top officials in the coming months
New evidence in special counsel probe may undercut Trump’s claim documents he took were automatically declassified
A French court of appeals confirmed former President Nicolas Sarkozy's three-year jail term for corruption and influence peddling
Debt Ceiling Crises Have Unleashed Political Chaos
Weibao Wang, a former software engineer at Apple, was charged with stealing trade secrets related to autonomous systems, including self-driving cars
Mobile phone giant Vodafone to cut 11,000 jobs globally over three years as new boss says its performance not good enough
Elon Musk compares George Soros to Magneto, the supervillain from the Marvel Comics series.
Warren Buffett Sells TSMC Shares Over Concerns About Taiwan's Stability
New Study Finds That Secondary Bacterial Pneumonia Is a Major Cause of Death in COVID-19 Patients Who Require Ventilator Assistance
The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines calls the British monarchy "an absurdity" he wants to remove in his lifetime
King Charles III being crowned.
'Godfather Of AI' Geoffrey Hinton Quits Google To Warn Of The Tech's Dangers
A Real woman
Vermont Man Charged with Stalking After Secretly Tracking Woman with Apple AirTag
Elon Musk Statements About Tesla Autopilot Could Be 'Deepfakes,' Lawyers Claim. Judge Evette Pennypacker Does Not Understand How Far and Advanced This Technology Became
Ukraine More Prepared for Counterattack as Reinforcements Arrive
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni Discuss Migration, Defence, and Ukraine
AT&T's Successful Test of Satellite-Based Phone Call Raises Possibility of Widespread Coverage
CNN: "Joe Biden is asking for four more years — when 74% of Americans think the country is heading the wrong way“
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Cuts Short Live TV Interview Due to Health Issue
US Congresswoman threaten Twitter Files journalist with arrest
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh slams New York Times' pro-government stance and treatment of sources
Enough is enough: it's time to end the war in Ukraine. While Russia may be to blame for starting it, Russia is not the one refusing to stop it
Fox News Settles their case with Dominion Voting Systems for a staggering $787.5 MILLION
AG decries scapegoating and rushed lawmaking by government
The land of the free violence