Amazon Labor Union fails to repeat victory in Staten Island Amazon warehouse election
An Amazon sorting center on Staten Island in New York has voted against unionizing, a month after a larger Amazon warehouse across the street voted to join the Amazon Labor Union.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The Amazon Labor Union has lost its bid to unionize a second warehouse on Staten Island in New York. Amazon workers voted down the union today by a wide margin. The election came just a month after workers at a bigger warehouse across the street made history by becoming the first Amazon workers in the U.S. to unionize.
NPR's Andrea Hsu has been following all this closely. And we need to note that Amazon is among NPR's financial supporters and also distributes certain NPR content. Hi, Andrea.
ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: Hi.
SHAPIRO: Tell us how this vote played out today.
HSU: Well, going into today's vote count, the Amazon Labor Union felt they had a lot of momentum. You know, we've talked a lot about this union over the last month - had been this Cinderella story, this upstart group led by workers and former workers who had achieved the unimaginable - unionizing at Amazon, of all places.
But, Ari, as soon as the vote count got under way today, you could just see the no votes piling up fast. It was all livestreamed on Zoom. And in the end, almost a thousand ballots were cast in this election, and 62% of them were no votes. It was quite a contrast to last month's vote, when workers at a much larger warehouse across the street voted 55% in favor of unionizing.
SHAPIRO: That's such a dramatic difference. What changed? Like, what happened to the union's effort?
HSU: Well, it's really too early to know. But, you know, this was a smaller warehouse, a sorting center, where workers sort packages onto different pallets, depending on where they're going. And notably, it was not the first warehouse that the organizers had targeted. Chris Smalls and Derrick Palmer, the founders of the Amazon Labor Union - they were co-workers inside the larger warehouse that voted for the union last month. They used to carpool to work together. So it seems the union had a much stronger foothold inside that warehouse from the start.
But, of course, Amazon has also continued to run this really aggressive anti-union campaign. They've held meetings with workers to urge them to vote no. And then last week, the company actually gave into one of the union's demands. Amazon announced that workers could keep their cellphones on them while working. You know, this was a policy introduced early in the pandemic so that workers could get in touch with their families in case they had, you know, personal emergency - things like child care issues. Amazon had said they were going to roll back this policy, but now they've told workers, actually, you can keep your phone on you.
SHAPIRO: I said that the union won the first election across the street, but I understand Amazon has yet to recognize that result. What's going on there?
HSU: Yeah. Well, a week after that vote count, as, you know, the Amazon Labor Union was celebrating and doing interview after interview, Amazon filed this long list of objections that could actually derail their win. The company argued, among other things, that union organizers harassed and threatened employees who didn't support the union. And Amazon also accused the regional National Labor Relations Board in Brooklyn, which oversaw that election and the one that was counted today, of favoring the union and helping them win. And these are pretty serious charges.
Amazon says the union didn't actually have enough signatures to petition for an election but that the regional board still allowed the election to go forward, giving organizers extra time to collect signatures. So the National Labor Relations Board has since moved this case out of Brooklyn to another region, to Phoenix, Ariz. And they say this is standard policy when the conduct of a regional board is challenged, and they say Phoenix had the bandwidth to take it on.
Now, the regional director there in Phoenix has said the evidence that Amazon has described could be grounds for overturning the election. Those are his words. And he has scheduled a hearing for May 23. And, Ari, I should note there could be challenges to today's results as well. The Amazon Labor Union has a week to file objections.
SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Andrea Hsu. Thanks for the update.
HSU: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.