Former and current warehouse workers at JFK8, Amazon’s fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, have applied again to vote on unionization. The workers originally filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board in November, but they were forced to withdraw it after failing to collect enough signatures to be approved. This time, organizers were reportedly able to collect more than 2,500 signatures from employees, or half of the 5,000 people employed at the facility.
The workers hope to form the Amazon Labor Union, an independent group not affiliated with any major national union. One of their lead organizers is Christian Smalls who led a strike at JFK8 due to the way the e-commerce giant handled COVID safety in its warehouse. Amazon then fired Smalls, telling CNBC he received “multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines”. Even so, Smalls is still very much involved in the facility’s renewed efforts to unite. In an email to The Washington Post, he referred to what happened at Amazon’s Bessemer warehouse, saying that “prolonged voting processes are controlled by the bosses who use that period to lie to, intimidate and threaten the workers.” to vote no for the union.”
The majority of workers at the Bessemer, Alabama plant voted against unionization in April. However, the election was fraught with controversy, with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) — the union workers were supposed to join — accusing Amazon of disrupting the election. One of the main issues they raised was that the company had installed the warehouse ballot box and in view of security cameras, giving employees the feeling that their votes were being monitored. After investigating the RWDSU’s complaint, the NLRB ordered Amazon to hold another vote.
Amazon is adamantly opposed to its employees joining unions. When the folks at JFK8 first petitioned to unite, the e-commerce giant told Engadget in a statement:
“As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees. Every day we empower people to find ways to improve their jobs, and when they do, we want to make those changes quickly. That kind of continuous improvement is harder to do quickly and nimbly with unions in the middle. The benefits of direct manager-employee relationships cannot be overstated — these relationships ensure that every employee’s voice can be heard, not just the voices of a select few. “We have made great strides over the past few years and months in key areas such as pay and safety. There are plenty of things we can continue to do better, and that’s our focus – to get better every day.”
The NLRB has confirmed to The Post that it has received the group’s petition and will review the signatures in the coming days.
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