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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Amazon, Union face off in New York rematch election

NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — Amazon and the nascent group that successfully organized the company’s first U.S. union are headed for a rematch Monday when a federal Labor Board matched votes cast by warehouse workers in another election on Staten Island. Will do

A second Labor win could give workers at other Amazon facilities — and at other companies — the motivation they need to launch similar efforts. It could also bolster the power and influence of the Amazon Labor Union, a grassroots group of former and current workers who won last month’s historic victory.,

But the loss of a union could mute some labor festivals and raise questions about whether the first victory was just a fluke.

The results of the election are expected to be announced on Monday evening by the National Labor Relations Board, which is overseeing the process. In the meantime, the agency still has to decide whether to certify the first win, which Amazon has disputed.

There are far fewer workers to vote in this latest election than last month – about 1,500 compared to 8,300 at the neighboring Staten Island facility. There are also fewer organizers – about 10 compared to about 30.

“It’s a much more personal, aggressive fight over here,” said Connor Spence, an Amazon employee who works as the union’s vice president of membership.

Spence said there was more support for the organizing effort when the ALU applied for the election earlier this year. But this was quickly overshadowed by the larger facility across the street, where the organizers were directing much of their energy.

Meanwhile, Amazon continued to mandate meetings to persuade its employees to reject union efforts, posted anti-union flyers and launched a website urging workers to “vote no.”

Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in a statement that it is up to employees whether they want to join a union. But “as a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” Nantel said. “Our focus remains on working directly with our team to make Amazon a great place to work.”

Experts say the substandard union suffers from the small number of organisers, but that may not be a problem as the ALU’s legitimacy has been bolstered by last month’s unexpected victory. It has also found support from top union leaders and high-profile progressive parliamentarians. At a rally held outside a warehouse the day before voting began last week, US Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke in support of the organizers leading the union campaign.

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“It’s definitely about the ALU, but it’s also about the broader desire to organize right now,” said Association of Flight Attendants president Sarah Nelson, who also attended the rally. “And if we’re going to change the structure of power in this country and really give working people a fair shot, we’re going to have to run as fast as possible in this environment to mobilize millions.”

After their first Staten Island win, ALU organizers focused on the smaller warehouse and reiterated their vision for workers – longer breaks, better job security and a higher hourly wage of $30, currently only on Staten Island. Over $18 offered. ,

Spence said he has also prepared his pitch for part-time workers, on whom the facility relies heavily and who are awaiting their requests to transfer to full-time work at the company. By the time the votes were cast, he believed that the union had regained its momentum.

“We had to return it,” he said.

Even with a win under its belt, progress has been slow for the ALU. Amazon lodged an objection last month On the successful union campaign, it was argued in a filing with the NLRB that voting had been corrupted by the organizers and the regional office of the board, which oversaw the election. The company says it wants re-election, but pro-union experts believe it is an attempt to delay contract negotiations and potentially blunt some of the organizing momentum.

Despite setbacks, ALU has realized progress in other ways, shining a spotlight on Amazon’s anti-union strategy as well as highlighting concerns about its workplace conditions. This in turn has inspired others to take action.

On Tuesday, Sanders asked President Joe Biden to sign an executive order that cuts Amazon’s contracts with the government until the retailer shuts down what Sanders calls its “illegal anti-union activity.” Huh. Organizers believe such a move would fulfill the president’s campaign promise “to ensure that federal contracts only go to employers who sign neutrality agreements not to run anti-union campaigns.” Committed to.”

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In New York, two state lawmakers introduced a bill to regulate warehouse productivity quotas, aimed at reducing workplace injuries at facilities operated by Amazon and other companies. The bill’s sponsors said they were motivated by ALU’s impending contract negotiations with the company, which was criticized for high warehouse injury rates.,

Separately, the ALU, along with the American Federation of Teachers and New York State United Teachers, asked New York Attorney General Letitia James to investigate Amazon’s eligibility for tax credits under a state program designed to attract business to New York. calling for. In a letter sent to James, Seth Goldstein, a union attorney who provides free legal aid to the ALU, argues that Amazon committed “major unfair labor practices” during the union drive that led to the program’s worker defenders. provisions have been violated. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.

Back on Staten Island, some warehouse workers voted against unionization, saying they already felt cared for by the company and would instead wait and see how contracts are negotiated before joining the union effort. How about moving on to the second facility. There is also doubt that the ALU can do what it sets out to do.

Warehouse worker Alexander Campbell, 25, voted against the union, saying he read a few things online that convinced him that his wages could be reduced if the warehouse unionised.

But others are supporting him. Michael Aguilar, a part-time warehouse employee turned ALU organizer, said he requested to switch to full-time work with Amazon about two months ago. He says the request has not been accepted, but the company is continuing to bring in new employees. When one of the organizers invited him to a union-organizing call, he participated and eventually decided to join the union campaign.

“Whatever they were fighting to align with my experience,” he said. “Once I knew that I jumped on board.”

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