Amazon looks set to lose its case to overturn the union victory that formed the company’s first organized warehouse in the United States
After workers in Staten Island, NY, voted to join the Amazon Labor Union this spring, the company appealed the result. A federal labor official presided over weeks of hearings on the matter and is now recommending that Amazon’s objections be dismissed in their entirety and that the union be certified.
“Today is a great day for Labor,” tweeted ALU President Chris Smalls, who started the union after Amazon fired him from its Staten Island warehouse following his participation in a pandemic-era layoff.
The case has attracted a lot of attention as it weighs the fate of the first — and so far only — successful union push at an Amazon warehouse in the United States. It is also large-scale, organizing more than 8,000 workers at the huge facility.
Staten Island workers voted to unionize by more than 500 votes, handing a breakthrough victory to an upstart grassroots group known as the Amazon Labor Union. The group is run by current and former workers at the warehouse, known as JFK8.
The union now has its sights set on another New York warehouse: Workers at an Amazon plant near Albany have collected enough signatures to petition the National Labor Relations Board for their own election.
However, Amazon has protested the union’s victory, accusing the NLRB’s Brooklyn regional office — which oversaw the election — of acting in favor of the Amazon Labor Union. Amazon also accused ALU of coercing and misleading warehouse workers.
“As we demonstrated through the hearing with dozens of witnesses and hundreds of pages of documents, both the NLRB and the ALU improperly influenced the outcome of the election, and we do not believe that represents what the majority of our team wants,” Amazon spokesperson. Kelly Nantel said in a statement Thursday, saying the company would appeal the hearing officer’s conclusion.
Officer’s report serves as a recommendation for a formal decision by the National Labor Relations Board, which does not have to follow the recommendation, but usually does. Amazon has until September 16 to submit objections. If the company fails to influence the NLRB, the agency will require the company to begin negotiations with the union.
At stake in all this is the future path of labor organizing at Amazon, where unions have long fought for a foothold while its sprawling network of warehouses has made the company America’s second-largest private employer.
In the spring, two previous picks failed to form unions at two other Amazon warehouses. Workers at another, smaller Staten Island warehouse voted against joining the ALU.
And in Alabama, workers held another vote after US workers found Amazon unfairly influenced the original 2021 election, but new election results remain disputed.
In that Alabama vote, the NLRB has yet to rule on ballots contested by both the union and Amazon, which could affect the outcome of the election. The agency is also reviewing allegations of unfair labor practices by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is trying to organize warehouse workers in Alabama.
Editor’s note: Amazon is among NPR’s recent financial backers.