- Workers at the JFK8 Fulfillment Center in Staten Island voted to create the first Amazon Labor Union.
- Experts have called the move one of the biggest labor victories in decades.
- Amazon challenged the outcome, and bargaining hadn’t begun as of July 2023.
Thousands of workers at a Staten Island Amazon warehouse unionized in April 2022, which experts have called one of the biggest labor victories in decades. And then Amazon challenged the outcome.
In January, however, federal labor officials found no merit in Amazon’s objections and ordered the company to start negotiations. As of July 2023, bargaining hadn’t begun.
Amazon’s Staten Island unionization effort was led by Chris Smalls, a former Amazon worker. However, Smalls’ leadership of the Amazon Labor Union has been questioned recently, with the declining organizing momentum, union election losses at other facilities, and his rising public profile.
Last year, Smalls was caught on video fighting a former Amazon Labor Union organizer who’d been threatening him.
Smalls also registered a new nonprofit recently, leading some in the union to believe that he might be pursuing other projects.
Does Amazon have a labor union?
The Amazon Labor Union was founded in 2021 by a group of labor activists, called the Congress of Essential Workers. The group, founded by Smalls, Jordan Flowers, Gerald Bryson, and Derrick Palmer, is a collective of essential workers, including servers, warehouse workers, teachers, and others.
Smalls, a former Amazon employee, was fired by the company after organizing a protest over COVID safety concerns. In April 2022, Amazon workers at the JFK8 Fulfillment Center in Staten Island voted to create the first Amazon Labor Union.
The Amazon Labor Union is focused on better pay, better benefits, and better working conditions for Amazon workers. The union called for hourly wages to increase to at least $30 an hour and more paid breaks and time off.
Why don’t Amazon workers want to be in a union?
Amazon workers in Staten Island voted to unionize in 2022. But, the move followed a failed union vote at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, in 2021.
Workers at an Amazon Fresh grocery store launched a union push in 2022, seeking higher pay, more flexible attendance policies, longer breaks, and other benefits. A group of Amazon delivery drivers in California, who contract with Amazon, unionized this year and negotiated their first contract with the Teamsters Union.
Is Amazon against unions?
The National Labor Relations Board has accused Amazon of illegal anti-union practices, such as firing workers in retaliation for joining a union. According to disclosures filed with the Department of Labor, Amazon spent $14.2 million in 2022 on consultants who worked to encourage workers not to unionize.
Amazon workers have also accused the company of handing out “vote no” pins during unionization efforts, texting workers multiple times a day, removing pro-union materials, and disciplining employees who participate in union activities.
The company led an anti-union campaign in Alabama, which led to workers voting not to form a union. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union said it would file objections with the NLRB, alleging that Amazon hindered the vote.
Amazon disputed the Staten Island workers’ unionization win, but its challenge failed, and the vote was certified. However, the company has appealed.
What will happen if Amazon unionized?
Workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island voted to join the Amazon Labor Union. In other instances, workers have tried to organize to join other unions.
According to Morgan Stanley analysts, unionization at Amazon could increase costs for the company. By increasing hourly wages for the employees in Staten Island who voted to unionize, Amazon’s operating expenses would increase by $203 million in 2023 — however, it’s a small portion of the company’s annual operating expenses, which reached $445 billion in 2021.
For every 1% of Amazon’s workforce that unionizes, analysts expect it to lead to an incremental $150 million in annual operating expenses.