A historic day of tough fighting when workers at Amazon’s JFK8 fulfillment center voted to form a union. With the closure of a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, the union was approved this morning, 2,654 to 2,131. A total of 4,785 votes were cast out of 8,325 voters.
This is a major victory for union organizers in the retail industry, which in its 27-year history has managed to halt union efforts. The vote comes after years of reports of workers being mistreated at various locations around the country. Amazon has strongly opposed this story, for example by increasing the minimum wage by $15 an hour in 2018.
The company has aggressively cracked down on union movements over fears that a yes vote could have wide-ranging repercussions in warehouses across the country, echoing recent Starbucks activity. Trade union voting ended yesterday with a significant margin, which continued until the second and last day of the vote count.
The problems probably come from Amazon. Following last year’s vote at a fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union (RWDSU) filed a complaint, prompting the National Labor Relations Board to recount the results of the secret ballot. Yesterday we counted the votes together. No votes currently lead from 993 to 875 – a much smaller difference than the first vote looming over the fate of 416 contested ballots. The number of ballots used in the Staten Island election is 67, 547 fewer votes than for the close of the sample field.
The fight over working conditions at JFK8 came to a head in March 2020 when employee Christian Smalls helped organize a strike. Small unions have become a leading voice in action after the company was fired over what Amazon attributed to COVID-19 protocols. In February this year, he was arrested along with two others and charged with trespassing. Smalls and others said they were just going to JFK8 to deliver food for the workers.
New York City has a long and rich history of labor unions, so it’s no surprise that it is now poised to become the Amazon’s first home. The company reportedly invested a significant amount of money to fight the union’s efforts. Reports surfaced yesterday that the company hired Global Strategy Group, a consulting firm with ties to the Democratic Party, to persuade employees to vote no. It’s a fight that’s understandably framed as David vs. Goliath as the company works to quell longstanding grassroots efforts. In total, the company has spent about $4.3 million on anti-union activities over the past year.
Amazon has seven days starting today (Friday, April 8) to contest the results.