Amazon workers won the company’s first union in the U.S. – that’s what happens next

Workers at Amazon (AMZN) in Staten Island, New York, on Friday formed the first union in the U.S. in the company’s 28-year history to strike at the e-commerce giant and intensify the wave of work across the country.

The striking victory of the workers-led, crowd-funded union over the country’s second-largest employer has become a direct symbol of the revival of workers ’strength. But at the moment the symbol is almost all that it is.

In the coming days, the Amazon Labor Union may face a problem on the part of Amazon over the legitimacy of the election results, which if successful could reverse their results. If the union withstands this potential problem, it will begin negotiations with the company on the outlines of the union contract at the company, which is likely to stretch for several months.

These next steps will determine the strength of the union and, ultimately, whether it will be able to achieve the historic feat of American company Amazon, where pay, benefits and working conditions are determined by agreement between the company and its employees.

The results of the coming weeks and months may also determine whether the victory will inspire more on the organization of work, or will eventually become a landmark moment that can show little. For Amazon, what happens next may either completely overturn their employment model, or simply draw temporary negative attention to the working conditions at their businesses.

First, as early as this week, the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) and the company may enter into a dispute over the legitimacy of the election results. Not surprisingly, the union seemed to agree with the results as it won. But Amazon reacted to Friday’s results with disapproval, suggesting it could officially object to the outcome.

In a statement, the company said it was weighing options that included “filing objections based on improper and improper influence” by the National Labor Relations Council (NLRB), the federal agency that conducted the election.

The company said the National Retail Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have also witnessed inappropriate behavior.

Amazon has not provided more details about the allegations, but objections are due to be filed with the NLRB regional office by Friday. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The union received 2,654 votes in favor and 2,131 votes against, which is 523 votes in favor of the union, which is 10.9% of the total number of ballots cast.

Seth Goldstein, a lawyer for the International Union of Offices and Professionals, who works free of charge for the Amazon Labor Union, called the potential objections to the election results from Amazon “outrageous.”

“It would be unfortunate if they try to act like Donald Trump and try to steal the mandate,” Goldstein said.

Workers are queuing to vote in the union election at the Amazon JFK8 Distribution Center, Staten Island, New York, USA, March 25, 2022. REUTERS / Brendan McDermid.

Objections to the results could trigger hearings in the NLRB or in court, which may take months to resolve.

If Amazon refuses to challenge the results or the results stand up to the challenge, the company and the union will begin entering into a contract that sets out working conditions in the warehouse, such as pay, benefits and working conditions.

Federal law requires employers to “trade in good faith” with union representatives, but penalties for breaking the law are “insignificant at best,” said Sharon Block, a former Biden administration official and executive director of Harvard Law School and the Working Life Program.

In turn, the negotiation process can take months or even years. According to a Bloomberg Law study published last June, contract negotiations between a newly formed union and an employer take an average of 409 days.

ALU published a statement on Saturday with a call to start contract negotiations in early May. Asked about a quick turn in the talks, Goldstein said: “Amazon always calls itself smart and innovative, we believe that for an organization like Amazon, which has so many lawyers and human resources staff, it is quite reasonable and that it needs to be done because our members want to sign a contract ”.

The union contract at Amazon warehouse on Staten Island will prove to be “very significant,” Block said. The contract will push for the organization of work at Amazon and other companies, which some observers perceived as “disorganized,” she said.

The ALU, led by former warehouse worker Chris Smalls, drew attention to an unorthodox approach to the organization that included offering home-cooked food to workers and posting updates to TikTok. The union will adopt a similar approach to collective bargaining, Block said.

“This is a union that has demonstrated a great spirit and really a willingness to think differently,” Block said. “I think they will bring that spirit to the negotiating table.”

Max Zan is a Yahoo Finance reporter. Find it on Twitter @MaxZahn_.

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