But Friday’s election showed that the agency’s staff on Staten Island, New York, overwhelmingly voted in favor of merging with the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), a grassroots organization founded by Smalls and other current and former employees. Amazon. object. The move was the first in Amazon’s 27-year history when a group of American workers successfully voted to form a union.
Now the important vote and the approach to achieving it may well have drastic effects across Amazon, where other union efforts are already underway. Labor experts argue that this may motivate workers in other warehouses to unite and perhaps reconsider more common tactics to do so. It could also intensify the wider labor movement in the United States.
Amazon, the country’s second-largest private employer, became even more dominant during the pandemic, hiring hundreds of thousands of workers to keep up with growing demand for online shipping. The company is also widely seen as setting standards for the future of work in the United States, with a focus on high-performance warehouses, automation, and careful monitoring of employee productivity.
“Amazon workers across the country will now believe that it is possible to organize and win elections, but it will still be difficult,” said Rebecca Givan, a professor of labor law at Rutgers University. “Chances are always, always against workers being organized in such a situation, but it’s proof that it can be done, and it’s likely to inspire workers elsewhere.”
But when the dust settles on the ballot, questions remain about how far Amazon can push back the new alliance – and any other efforts trying to follow in its footsteps.
How Amazon can squeeze
Amazon said it was considering “objections” to “improper and improper influence” by the NLRB, an independent federal agency tasked with protecting employees’ rights to the organization.
Kyle Blado, acting director and spokesperson for the NLRB, made a scathing statement to CNN Business in response to Amazon on Friday. “The NLRB is an independent federal agency entrusted by Congress with the National Labor Relations Act. All of the NLRB’s actions against Amazon were in line with this Congressional mandate.”
Givan Amazon’s statement suggests that it may not have a clear path to challenging the results with what can be considered a more typical means. “It seems that there are no problems based on the behavior of the organizers in the campaign, otherwise they would have found out by now, and certainly not on the rights of voters, otherwise there would be more contested ballots,” – said Zhivan.
Similarly, Kate Andrias, a professor of labor law at Colombia’s law school, called it “a very unusual argument”, noting that the company appears to be “hoping to put political pressure on the NLRB to get it rejected”.
According to labor experts, it is clear that Amazon is unlikely to accept the ALU, which later this month should hold regular elections at the sorting plant in Staten Island. And it could be difficult if the ALU enters the next phase of contract negotiations.
Givan said some employers sometimes try to undermine union efforts by making it harder to reach a contract, through a process called superficial bargaining.
“They will try to keep to a minimum or not be serious at the negotiating table. They have a legal duty to trade in good faith, but they don’t have many teeth.” [enforcement of that obligation]”- said Givan.
Although Amazon is legally obliged to start negotiations on time, some labor experts have noted that Amazon may try to postpone as much as possible and postpone negotiations until any possible legal complaints are resolved. According to John Logan, a professor of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University, some corporations hold the view that “you will not lose until you sign a contract.”
Given its importance, Amazon is likely to face a lot of attention in how it will navigate in the coming weeks and months in response to the election results.
Where the trade union push goes next
Hours after the union’s victory, the outcome was appreciated by the White House, advocacy groups and major unions, some of which hinted at plans to bolster a new impetus for Amazon’s merger.
But efforts on Staten Island also underscore that a “non-traditional” campaign could be victorious, Logan said. As he told CNN Business before the vote count, joining Amazon’s unions would require “something that would take off like a wildfire and, largely, be workers-led and based on workers’ self-organization.”
ALU, which has expanded its trade union activities largely through donations raised on the GoFundMe crowdfunding site, can inspire just that.
The former Smalls warehouse on Staten Island is in the spotlight now from the ballot box to the negotiating table. In a press release Saturday, ALU said Smalls demanded that Amazon start talks in early May. “We sincerely hope that we will be able to engage in a constructive dialogue with our employer, and that this process will lead to a significant improvement in working conditions for Amazon employees,” the release said.
“I never agree to anything that doesn’t benefit us, and I’m talking about us downstairs, entry-level workers,” Smalls said. “We’re close to even thinking about contributions for at least a year or more. We have to fight for a contract first.”