Amazon Warehouse Unionizes for the First Time Ever. 50+ More Want to Follow in Its Footsteps
In late March 2022, workers at Amazon's JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, New York, voted on whether or not to unionize.
On April 1st, the election results were announced and the final vote count was 2654 “yes" and 2131 “no".
This marks the first time US workers have successfully voted to form a union in Amazon's 27-year history.
Amazon's JFK8 facility on Staten Island employs over 8,000 people. Workers have been organizing for the past two years in an effort to unionize, demanding higher wages, longer break times and safer working conditions.
Data published by the New York Times, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the warehouse has an extremely high worker turnover rate and an injury rate three times higher than the national average.
COVID-19 at JFK8
Unionization efforts grew out of prolonged protest at Amazon’s lack of safety precautions in 2020 during the first stage of the pandemic.
Chris Smalls, now president of the new union, staged a walkout at the facility over Covid-19 working conditions in 2020 and was laid off the same day.
Gerald Bryson, a fellow worker, also got fired shortly after for protesting outside the warehouse. The National Labor Relations Board confirmed that Amazon illegally fired Bryson.
Over the course of the next two years, Smalls, Bryson and other employees at JFK8 worked to organize the union. In response, Amazon spent more than $4m to fight the campaign.
Hired labor consultants delivered anti-union messages to Amazon employees, the inside of the warehouse was plastered with anti-union posters and workers accused management of removing union material from break rooms.
To no avail
Despite Amazon's efforts, workers succeeded in forming the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) in a historic first, marking an important victory for organized labor.
"This is a huge shot in the arm for the entire labor movement." — Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University
"This is a worldwide movement. [...] There are Amazons around the world and there are labor movements around the world. There are people in the same situation as us right here. This gives everybody hope. If Amazon — the number one — could be beat, anybody can be beat." — Gerald Bryson
The Domino Effect
Staff at more than 50 Amazon warehouses have contacted the organizers of Amazon's first-ever unionized workplace, expressing interest in setting up unions of their own.
Another facility, LDJ5, also on Staten Island, is due to hold its own vote to organize under the ALU on April 25th.
"The revolution is here." — Chris Smalls
In a statement, Amazon expressed its disappointment at the election result:
“We’re disappointed with the outcome of the election in Staten Island because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees."
“We’re evaluating our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB that we and others (including the National Retail Federation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce) witnessed in this election.”
This is #1 in our series of Instagram infographics on resistance against corporate power.
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