Amazon Warehouses Push For Unions


Emilee Davis graphic

Amazon employees of the Staten Island, NY, Warehouse JFK8 successfully voted to organize a labor union on April 1 while Amazon employees in the Bessemer, AL, Warehouse called a vote to do the same against heavy anti-union campaigns.

JFK8 Workers pushed for greater pay closer to Staten Island’s average pay, “longer breaks and paid time off for injured employees,” according to the Associated Press, which covered the warehouse’s call-to-vote.

The Associated Press stated that workers sought “an hourly wage of $30, up from a minimum of just over $18 per hour offered by the company. The estimated average wage for the borough is $41 per hour, according to a similar U.S. Census Bureau analysis of Staten Island’s $85,381 median household income.”

The final tally of the union vote in NYC was 2,654 in favor of the union versus 2,131 opposed as the Washington Post reported.

Union organizer and former Staten Warehouse JFK8 employee, Chris Smalls, popped a bottle of champaign to celebrate the lengthy, year-long effort toward unionization.

Smalls founded the first labor union for Amazon workers. The Amazon Labor Union was formed in April 2021 after Smalls was fired for demanding that Amazon provide more and better COVID precautions and compensation.

Momentum from the Staten Warehouse JFK8 win has spread. Already, a second warehouse in Staten will be calling a union vote at the end of April.The story in Bessemer is different, though, and began last year with a union vote.

Last year’s Bessemer union vote failed dramatically, but federal regulators who oversaw the election “ordered a new election when they found that Amazon had improperly interfered,” the Washington Post stated.

The chief red flag was the positioning of a ballot mailbox that was visible through Amazon’s security camera feed. The invasion of privacy while voting meant Amazon would be capable of threatening voting workers with layoffs.

This year’s election in Bessemer initially drew “993 against and 875 in favor, with 59 ballots counted as void and 416 counted as challenged,” The Verge claimed.

The challenged ballots will enter an adjudicating process, potentially allowing for the Amazon and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store unions. The results from hearings and the court’s ultimate ruling will most likely take weeks or months to be finalized.

Outside of the official election, pro-union efforts are damaged by the high turnover rate at Amazon. Workers do not remain for long periods of time, which does not enable the collective workforce to identify unfavorable workplace factors, organize and bring forward a union vote.