Amazon employees at two different warehouse facilities may now vote in a union election. On Wednesday, the Amazon Labor Union said that it had reached an agreement with the e-commerce giant to hold an in-person election from March 25 to March 30 at a Staten Island warehouse known as JFK8. On March 28, the election will take place as ballots are tabulated in a separate union election in Bessemer, Alabama. Vote-by-mail ballots are now being used in Alabama.
The ALU, a newly formed labor organization, led by current and former Amazon employees, is also attempting to represent employees at another Staten Island plant. No Amazon warehouses in the United States are unionized, and workers at the Alabama warehouse rejected the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union in a prior ballot.
“Note the anniversary of the Walkout 2 Years ago,” stated ALU organizer Christian Smalls on Twitter, announcing the election dates. Smalls and other Amazon workers opposed COVID-19 safeguards at the warehouse in 2020. However, when Amazon advised him to quarantine for exposure to the virus, he was dismissed for attending the outdoor event.
Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said the company is “skeptical” that the petition for the election had enough signatures. “However, now that the NLRB has agreed to hold the election, we want our employees’ opinions to be heard as quickly as possible,” Nantel added. “Our employees have always had the option of joining a union, and our focus remains on working directly with our team to make Amazon a wonderful place to work,” says the company.
A request for comment from the NLRB was not immediately returned. The agreement comes as Amazon faces criticism over its treatment of warehouse employees and drivers, and other large Seattle-based firms, such as Starbucks and REI, face union organizing attempts.
The NLRB has scrutinized Amazon’s behavior during organizing efforts at its sites. The first vote in Bessemer was thrown out by a regional director, who found that Amazon had broken labor regulations during the election. In December, the firm agreed to settle a complaint with the NLRB, deciding not to interfere with workers’ lawful organizing rights and rescinding a regulation prohibiting workers from remaining in break areas for more than 15 minutes before or after a shift. According to prosecutors, the NLRB accused Amazon of interrogating and harassing workers participating in the organizing campaign at JFK8 on Staten Island.
Amazon has maintained that direct connection with management is beneficial for its employees and that unions are an unneeded intermediary. To keep up with staffing demands in a tight labor market, the firm has also increased starting pay and provided starting incentives. Amazon missed its aim of employing 150,000 new employees during the holidays and warned investors in February that labor and shipping expenses would grow further. As a result of the increased expenditures, Amazon decided to hike the price of Prime subscriptions.
According to a screenshot of a text, Smalls claims Amazon sent to them, Amazon alerted JFK8 workers of the new election date and made it plain how it thinks they should vote. (Amazon did not react to a request for comment on the screenshot right away.)
The snapshot of the text reads, “We encourage every eligible associate at JFK8 to vote in the election, make your opinion heard, and vote NO.”