Amazon’s first union in the United States fails at a second warehouse

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Posted on Tuesday, May 03, 2022 at 3:53 pm

The Amazon Workers’ Union (ALU), with the power of a first resounding victory in early April, failed to immediately renew its feat: employees of an Amazon sorting center in New York voted overwhelmingly against the organization’s arrival on their site .

According to an online count, 618 employees at the warehouse called LDJ5 voted “no” to the question of whether they wanted to be represented by ALU, compared to 380 who voted “yes”. The participation rate was 61%.

The organization acknowledged its defeat but warned it would continue its campaign.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We all know there will be wins and losses,” ALU President Christian Smalls said shortly after.

In front of the New York office of the NLRB’s ballot oversight service, frustration was seen on the faces of the ten union members present, an AFP reporter noted.

A young woman cried, many complained of intimidation maneuvers by Amazon as the vote approached.

“I’m very upset,” said Michael Aguilar, an employee at LDJ5. “Many workers openly said they were against the union … but there were also many undecided,” he explained. Apparently they were “convinced by Amazon propaganda” that “he used all the low hits to not win on another site”.

ALU had surprised in early April by becoming the company’s first union in the United States, inside the JFK8 warehouse in the Staten Island area of ​​New York.

The second largest employer in the United States after distribution giant Walmart, Amazon had by then managed to repel the desires of employees who wanted to reorganize the country since its inception in 1994.

– “Back to battle” –

In the aftermath of its first success, ALU caused a stir, with its members claiming that warehouse representatives had been contacted across the country.

The organization hoped to score another victory at the LDJ5 sorting center, located opposite JFK8.

US President Joe Biden himself had made a strong appeal in favor of the unions in early April, stating during his speech: “After all, Amazon, we are coming …”

But pressure from the company founded by Jeff Bezos was “stronger than the first time”, the company committed “illegal actions” to counter the union campaign, said Eric Milner, the lawyer representing ALU, referring in particular in disciplinary measures against trade unionists.

For Christian Smalls, the difference was mainly due to the fact that the trade unionists who led the campaign in JFK8 worked there for several years, while those who led the struggle in LDJ5 “had only a few months”.

For the rest, the team “will take a break, reassess the situation, regain strength (…) and return to battle,” he assured.

The ALU, as well as the entire trade union movement, must now find “how to keep alive the momentum” created by the first victory, Patricia Campos-Medina, co-director of the Labor Institute at Cornell University.

Several large unions have already expressed their willingness to provide logistical and legal support to the ALU, and all of these organizations need to be coordinated to campaign in multiple warehouses simultaneously, he said.

Because in the end, only if they manage to achieve enough victories, Amazon “will agree to negotiate,” he added.

The group for its part expressed its satisfaction on Monday and showed “to be impatient to continue working directly (with the employees)”.

The company appealed against the result of the vote in JFK8, claiming in particular that ALU members had “intimidated” employees and accusing the NLRB New York branch of bias.

An employee from another NLRB branch where the case was transferred to Phoenix agreed to hold a group hearing on May 23.

Motivated by the attitude of their company during the pandemic, especially in terms of health care, and more recently by inflation, several groups of employees in different companies are currently trying to organize.

At Starbucks in particular, in the wake of the first symbolic victory in December, employees of more than 250 cafes have filed for voting and more than forty have so far voted in favor of forming a union within their store.

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