It’s been a predictable wild ride for union activity at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama. After an uphill battle, the retail giant emerged victorious last April. While the workers were supported across the political spectrum, from Bernie Sanders to Marco Rubio, it was a one-sided victory that was immediately contested by union representatives.
RWDSU managed to win before the end of the year, when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) agreed to hold a second vote after accusations that Amazon was forcing employees into “serious and egregious illegal activities.” In January, the NLRB announced that the secret ballot would begin on February 4th. The counting of votes for the historic victory will begin on Monday, March 28.
Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse is facing similar pressure, albeit with a much smaller voting window. Voting, which began today, will last until March 31, after which the counting of votes will begin. Unlike mail-in elections in Alabama, they are held in person, which was a source of some tension in the previous vote.
The labor push has already generated some controversy. Christian Smalls, a former JFK8 employee turned union lawyer, was arrested in late February for trespassing along with two others. Smalls denied the allegations, saying all three delivered food to Amazon employees. “It’s just Amazon creating the situation,” he told the press. “It’s the evil eye.” The company responded with a statement of its own in which it told the media that it had “repeatedly violated the rules despite numerous warnings.”
Amazon has previously been accused of a union-busting strategy, perhaps fearing that successful union action could put a watch on a company whose treatment of its employees has been heavily criticized over the years. A successful push will almost certainly encourage workers to visit more Amazon warehouses. Conditions during the pandemic have also been a motivating factor for many.
“We look forward to hearing the voices of our employees,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement to gaming-updates. “We are focused on working directly with our team to make Amazon a great place to work.”
Notably, the company is one of several major American brands showing increasing interest in the event. Earlier this month, Manhattan REI workers voted to unionize. Starting with a location in Buffalo, New York, Starbucks across the country has also had a kind of domino effect. Stores in Mesa, Arizona and earlier this week in the chain’s hometown of Seattle followed suit.