The victory of Amazon workers ’unions could spur more activity in Silicon Valley

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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Amazon’s victory in Staten Island could extend to the rest of Big Tech

Amazon (AMZN) is officially the first major technology company to face the threat of a union that tells it what to do. And it may push workers in other technology companies to seek the same representation for themselves.

While the e-commerce giant, the country’s second-largest private employer, can still challenge the results of the vote, Amazon’s early victory of warehouse workers offers a plan for technology workers across the country seeking to organize.

“I think we’ll see a lot more of that,” said Susan Schurman, a professor of labor research and Rutgers University staff at Yahoo Finance. “I think the victory of the Amazon Labor Union on Amazon is stimulating much more effort.”

But serious work among technicians across Silicon Valley will remain a Herculean challenge.

Employees of the Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, New York, called JFK8, voted 2,654 against 2,131 on Friday to form the Amazon Labor Union, making it the first union in the U.S. in Amazon’s 28-year history.

Staten Island employees looking for better working conditions and pay are not the only Amazon employees working on the dealership. Workers at a plant in Bessemer, Alabama, have already cast two union votes, with workers unable to get enough support during the first ballot, and the second was about counting about 400 ballots. Hearings will be held in the coming weeks to determine how to proceed.

“Confidence Booster”

Not only Amazon is facing a reaction from workers. Apple retailers (AAPL) are also pushing for union representation and pay raises. Employees of the two stores have already submitted documents to the National Labor Relations Council (NLRB), according to The Washington Post.

And that momentum could spread to Silicon Valley’s white-collar positions, especially as workers at companies like Apple increasingly oppose everything from controversial hiring and fairness payments to returning to the office after the closures caused by the pandemic.

Amazon union leader Chris Smalls, center, in a baseball cap, celebrates with union members after receiving the results of a vote to unite workers into unions at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, New York. (Photo by AP / Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, file)

“It obviously boosts confidence, and I think it’s going to have some impact on technology,” said William Gould, a Stanford law school law professor at Yahoo Finance. “There is already some interest in unions in technology, and this will support it and possibly contribute to it.”

Last year, Google’s parent alphabet staff (GOOG, GOOGL) formed a union with more than 900 members. However, this union was not recognized by the NLRB. This will require a majority of Alphabet’s more than 100,000 employees to register.

However, in March, several Google Fiber Subtractor employees voted 9 to 1 in favor of joining a union within the Alphabet Workers Union, making them the first union branch recognized by the NLRB.

At video game giant Activision Blizzard (ATVI), testers of Raven Software’s subsidiary are working to form their own alliance, although Activision Blizzard has refused to voluntarily recognize the group. Microsoft (MSFT), which is in the midst of buying the video game giant, has said it will not hinder workers if Activision Blizzard eventually recognizes the union.

The fact that workers from some of Silicon Valley’s largest firms, especially those occupying white-collar workers, are uniting in unions shows that the effort goes far beyond one Amazon warehouse.

According to Schurman, the impetus of the unions to high-paying technological work is not related to working conditions, but to the apparent lack of respect from the leadership.

A man looks at his phone as he walks near an Apple store in Philadelphia, Monday, April 26, 2021 (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)

Employees of a number of Apple Store stores are trying to unite in a union. (Photo by AP / Matt Rourke)

“You can conclude if workers in a relatively high-paying sector want to have a union, that they don’t feel respected at work, and that they don’t believe they have a real voice in terms and conditions at work,” Shurman said. .

One or two alliances will not change Silicon Valley

While the Amazon union and similar efforts by Apple Store and Alphabet workers may inspire employees of other technology companies to create their own unions, at least one expert says this is far from a turning point for the industry.

“I do not see that this election in itself is changing the landscape much,” Gould told Yahoo Finance. “I think the unions will have to devote a lot of resources and energy to organizing the unorganized beyond what has been done in the recent past.”

This is especially true as technology companies continue to resist union efforts. Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Activision Blizzard have been accused of disrupting unions.

Irvine, Calif. - July 28: Several hundred Activision Blizzard employees are organizing an exit, which they say is a response from the company's management to the lawsuit, which highlights alleged harassment, inequality and more inside the company behind the gates at Activision Blizzard headquarters. on Wednesday, July.  28, 2021 in Irvine, California.  (Alain J. Shaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Activision Blizzard has become a hotbed of employee activity amidst many scandals. (Alain J. Shaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

In December, an NLRB judge ordered Alphabet to disclose information about a secret internal project to change workers’ views on unions. And managers at Apple Stores have been accused of trying to paint unions in a negative light.

And in January, Activision Blizzard separated its quality assurance staff into new positions, which could have prevented them from forming their own union.

“It’s very hard work,” said Gould, a former NLRB chairman and author of “Based on War, Depression and Pandemics.” “And in most unions it’s, relatively speaking, a nasty job.”

However, the results of the vote in the warehouses on Staten Island are indisputable. If Silicon Valley workers can unite in support of their own union unification efforts, it could be the beginning of a bigger wave of employee activity and implications for Big Tech.

Well Daniel Howley, technical editor of Yahoo Finance. Follow him @DanielHowley

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