May 18, 2022

Amazon union organizer optimistic about NYC union vote, hopes for ‘domino effect’ at Starbucks

Amazon (AMZN) warehouse workers at a factory in Staten Island, New York, began voting in a union election on Friday, pushing the e-commerce giant into a nationwide wave of workers organizing in new big companies like Starbucks (SBUX) and Disney (DIS).

The Staten Island warehouse marks the second site of a union election among a large group of warehouse workers in Amazon’s history, coming about a year after a landslide defeat of a labor campaign at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.

Despite the government’s discovery of illegal Amazon interference in the Bessemer plant, which resulted in a new vote still pending, the result in Alabama offers a cautionary tale for labor organizers trying to make inroads into the ‘business.

Nonetheless, the labor leader leading organizing at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse, Chris Smalls, told Yahoo Finance on Friday that he was “absolutely” optimistic about the likelihood of a labor victory among about 6,000 factory workers.

The union campaign at the warehouse has built trust with workers as part of its call for higher wages, strengthened COVID-19 precautions and enhanced health and safety protections, Smalls said. .

“These workers have seen our faces in the field for the past 11 months to let them know what a union offers and the quality of life unions can provide,” said Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union. (ALU).

Smalls, a former Amazon employee, was fired from his job at the Staten Island warehouse in March 2020 the same day he participated in a strike. Subsequently, he led a series of protests against the company before launching the independent worker-led union campaign in May.

“We definitely got the workers’ support,” Smalls said. “The fact that the organizers inside the building are colleagues who connect with them every day – [they] build relationships and trust.”

Amazon opposed the union. Over the past few months, the company has held regular mandatory employee meetings where representatives raise concerns about the labor campaign, The New York Times reported.

Staten Island Amazon workers demonstrate in Times Square as they demand union rights, in New York, U.S., December 22, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Gaber

In November, Amazon provided the following statement on the Staten Island union drive: “It’s the choice of our employees whether or not to join a union. It always has been. And it’s important that everyone understands the facts of union membership and election”. process itself.”

“We hold regular briefings for all employees, allowing them to ask questions,” the statement continued. “If the union vote passes, it will impact everyone on the site, so it’s important that all employees understand what this means to them and their daily lives at Amazon.”

Granted, some labor pundits told Yahoo Finance in November that the union was unlikely to prevail.

When the ALU filed for election in October, it did so with the support of about 2,000 workers, who make up about 30% of Staten Island’s eligible workforce — a proportion that marks the minimum required to trigger an election but which is well below. majority support that will be needed to win the election.

Research shows that unions often lose support between the filing of an election and the holding of the vote, due to worker turnover and anti-union tactics undertaken by the employer, said Kate Bronfenbrenner, a professor at the Cornell University School. of Industrial and Labor Relations. Yahoo funds.

The in-person election at the Staten Island facility will end on March 30, with results likely to be released within days.

“I hope we will succeed [and] on the bright side of history next week,” says Smalls

Max Zahn is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Find him on twitter @MaxZahn_.

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