NYC Warehouse Workers Vote to Become First Unionized Amazon Employees

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An employee scans packages at Amazon’s JFK8 distribution center in Staten Island, N.Y., November 25, 2020. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Employees at an Amazon warehouse in New York City voted to unionize on Friday in the first successful U.S. organizing effort at the company.

The tally was 2,654 votes in favor of joining the union and 2,131 opposed, with 67 challenged ballots, according to the Associated Press. About 57 percent of the more than 8,300 workers eligible to vote cast their ballots.

The results still must be formally certified by the National Labor Relations Board but the ballots that were challenged by either Amazon or the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) are not enough to change the outcome.

The JFK8 fulfillment center on Staten Island will join the Amazon Labor Union, which is not affiliated with any national union and was formed by Christian Smalls after he was fired from Amazon in March 2020.

As a supervisor at the fulfillment center, Smalls organized a walkout to protest what he viewed as a lack of worker protections against Covid-19. Amazon accused Smalls of violating safety protocols by coming to work after he had been told to quarantine because of a Covid-19 exposure.

Amazon workers at the Staten Island fulfillment center have called for longer breaks, paid sick leave and paid time off for injured employees, as well as an hourly wage of $30. The hourly wage for Amazon workers on Staten Island currently starts at $18.25 an hour.

A spokesperson for Amazon told the AP that the e-commerce giant invests in wages and benefits, including health care, 401(k) plans and a prepaid college tuition program.

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

Amazon reportedly pushed back against the organizing effort, with management hanging “Vote No” banners inside the warehouse and holding mandatory meetings where workers were urged to reject the union, according to NPR.

The union’s victory comes as Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama may have rejected a union bid in a 993 to 875 vote against the union. However, 416 challenged ballots with the potential to alter the outcome will be reviewed in the coming days.

Later this month, workers at a sorting center across the street from the Staten Island warehouse will vote on whether to join the ALU.

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