Workers at Amazon’s 4 warehouses on Staten Island have withdrawn their union’s request to vote, casting doubt on the future of an organized push that could lead to a second Amazon workplace election. in less than a year.
On Friday, the group requested the election petition be withdrawn, and the National Labor Relations Board approved.
Christian Smalls, a former Amazon employee who spearheaded the effort, said the board told his team they needed more signatures to prove that enough workers were interested in holding an election. . He said the group plans to redo the filing once more workers sign on.
Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement that “the company’s focus remains on listening directly to our employees and continuously improving on their behalf.”
The push to unionize reflects the growing labor challenges facing Amazon and other major employers as the pandemic has given workers a stronger hand for the first time in decades. century. But the failure of labor organizers on Staten Island shows how difficult it remains to form unions at the country’s biggest companies, especially Amazon. The company advertises an average starting wage of $18 an hour and has aggressively pushed back on previous efforts through signage in buildings and mandatory meetings with workers.
Mr. Smalls’ effort was organized not by an established union but instead by a group of current and former Amazon workers aiming to form an independent organization, the Amazon Labor Federation. The group spent six months collecting signatures from workers requesting a vote and submitted those signatures to the labor council last month.
The board determined that the signatures represented at least 30 percent of the workers of the proposed bargaining unit, the required threshold. The decision laid the groundwork for an election next spring.
It’s common for unions to file with more than the 30% threshold, labor experts say, because support has historically eroded during the campaign. Amazon has said for weeks that it doesn’t believe the threshold has been reached, saying more people work in the buildings than initially mandated by the Amazon Labor Union. The organizers submitted represent 5,500 workers, but Amazon said in documents filed with the labor council that the facilities employed more than 9,600 workers.
The Amazon Labor Union continues to hire workers, and this week hung a sign saying “Free Weeds and Food from ALU” next to a tent the company set up near a bus stop near the warehouses. Mr Smalls said he sent 400 more signatures to the labor council after initially accepting the petition, even though he was aware the agency determined he needed more.
He also said Amazon has sent payroll data to the labor board showing that the company believes that half of the people who signed the union card are no longer working for the company. Ms. Nantel declined to comment.
The New York Times reported this year that the company’s revenue was about 150% a year even before the pandemic increased attrition on the labor market.
Understanding Amazon’s Employment System
The organization has focused on a giant Staten Island warehouse, called JFK8, that serves as Amazon’s key pipeline to New York City. It employs more than 5,000 people. Over time, organizers expanded the effort to include three smaller Amazon facilities in the same industrial park.
Workers at JFK8 have accused Amazon of illegally interfering with their rights to organize. The agency said employee attorneys at the National Labor Relations Board had found some merit in pursuing at least three more of their cases and were still investigating several others.
In April, Amazon defeated a union election at its warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., in the face of the most serious union threat the company has faced in its history. The workers’ effort drew a visit from Senator Bernie Sanders and a tacit nod of support from President Biden. Some of Amazon’s anti-union measures prompted a labor council official to recommend discarding the results and reorganizing the election, a decision Amazon has said it will appeal.
Amazon has nearly 1.5 million employees and wants to hire hundreds of thousands of seasonal and fixed-time workers in the United States this fall. Brian Olsavsky, the company’s chief financial officer, said last month that the biggest constraint on the company’s operations is not its supply chain or warehouse space but its ability to hire and keep enough workers when company expansion.
Sometimes Amazon ships packages over longer distances or through faster, more expensive methods, he said, if there aren’t enough workers to process orders at a warehouse near a customer.
Amazon has raised wages and offered bonuses to attract workers in a tight labor market, and Olsavsky told investors that the labor challenges will cost the company $4 billion in the quarter alone. holiday.