Celebrate good times…for the time being.
Workers at Amazon’s JFK8 fulfillment center on Staten Island declared victory after winning the vote (2,654 YES and 2,131 NO) to form a union and organize. Sparked by working conditions some workers allegedly dealt with during the COVID-19 global pandemic, Staten Island workers were energized and the energy has paid off.
Although the AmNews has attempted to contact the now globally renowned lead organizer and Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls several times, all attempts have been unsuccessful. But Smalls told reporters that the victory could be attributed to “…the way we organized. The way I spent every single day talking to workers, rain or shine.”
He’s already called for Amazon officials to get to the bargaining table.
Managers at the JFK8 warehouse fired Smalls back in 2020. Smalls, and others, believe that this was retaliation for speaking out against Amazon not pausing operation when workers caught COVID-19 and either weren’t told or ignored and ordered to keep working. Through the use of new social media outlets like TikTok and older media outlets like Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, Smalls led the effort to organize, even going the fundraising route to help fund the organization process.
The Amazon Labor Union is independent of any other union in the city, state or country. They aren’t aligned with a union like the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union, which was dealt a blow in Bessemer, Alabama where they lost a second union vote.
Up north, however, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams stated that he was proud of the workers for winning the war while dealing with setbacks along the way.
“In the face of the aggressive, expensive, union-busting effort that Amazon has engaged in, I’m inspired by the workers who refused to be intimidated,” said Williams. “Who continued to organize, to vote, to demand what they deserve. I’m honored to have spoken with them, stood with them, and today, to celebrate with them.”
And the victory has pushed other Amazon employees to do the same. Smalls said, on Twitter, “Since we WON @amazonlabor has been contacted by workers in over 50 building Nationwide not including the several buildings overseas and counting!! #ALU.”
Not the result that Amazon officials were hoping for.
“We’re disappointed with the outcome of the election in Staten Island because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees,” read the company’s public statement. “We’re evaluating our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB that we and others (including the National Retail Federation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce) witnessed in this election.”
The worker vote on Staten Island is not the only issue that the online retail giant must deal with. A recent report by The Intercept claims that a new Amazon worker app might ban certain words. According to the leaked documents, some of those words include “union,” “pay raise,” “diversity,” “injustice,” “living wage” and “restrooms.” The latter could potentially be attributed to stories of Amazon workers urinating in bottles while working long shifts.
Amazon spokeswoman Barbara Agrait said that everyone should pump the breaks on the app’s potential banning tactics.
“Our teams are always thinking about new ways to help employees engage with each other,” said Agrait. “This particular program has not been approved yet and may change significantly or even never launch at all. If it does launch at some point down the road, there are no plans for many of the words you’re calling out to be screened. The only kinds of words that may be screened are ones that are offensive or harassing, which is intended to protect our team.”
The push to organize saw some setbacks during the run up to this point. Last November, workers withdrew their petition to unionize less than a few weeks before a hearing where they would present how many workers were interested in unionizing. They reportedly did not have the numbers at the time. But no more.
On Friday, Amazon workers will hold a press conference on Staten Island to speak on how they conquered the online retail giant. For a man that an Amazon lawyer called “not smart” or “articulate,” Smalls has successfully articulated his vision on a major scale.