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Workers of 100 Amazon US Warehouses Plan to Join Union

Employees of the tech giant’s NYC facility had voted to form the first union in a historic win last week.
AMAZON

Boosted by the historic victory of employees at Amazon’s New York City’s Staten Island warehouse who voted to form the first union a week ago, workers at more than 100 US-based facilities of the tech giant have planned to unionise their workplaces.

Amazon Labour Union (ALU) president Chris Smalls, a former Amazon warehouse worker who led the campaign on Staten Island, told Yahoo Finance on Friday that he plans to hold a “national call” with employees at the company’s facilities within the next two weeks after they approached him. He intends to visit some of Amazon facilities whose workers want to unionise to help them organise.

About 55% of the employees—2,654 to 2,131—of the online retailer’s warehouse in Staten Island, known as JFK8, had voted in favour of the ALU, according to the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB). The win at the second-largest US private employer in its 28-year-old history was a big boost to the recent grassroots success of labour activists pushing into new industries in the US.

The news of more Amazon employees seeking to join the union came on a day when the victory at JFK8 prompted the online retail giant—which had already used its might to prevent the formation of the ALU—to file an appeal with the NLRB Board alleging how the independent federal agency’s regional office overseeing the election “unfairly and inappropriately facilitated the victory”, CNN reported.

Amazon, which operates more than 110 warehouses in the US, alleged that the agency used an “artificially reduced the number” of employees in the voting unit to calculate whether ALU had garnered enough support to even hold an election. Besides, the agency delayed investigating what Amazon alleges “frivolous” unfair labour practice charges that were allegedly “exploited” by the ALU. Amazon also alleged that the ALU intimidated employees and “threatened violence against its detractors”.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement on Friday: “Based on the evidence we’ve seen so far, as set out in our objections, we believe that the actions of the NLRB and the ALU improperly suppressed and influenced the vote, and we think the election should be conducted again so that a fair and broadly representative vote can be had.”

ALU did not respond to a request for comment on Amazon’s appeal. Eric Milner, a lawyer representing the ALU, had earlier told the Associated Press that the objections raised by the company are “patently absurd”.
“The employees have spoken and their voices have been heard. Amazon is choosing to ignore that and instead engaging in stalling tactics to avoid the inevitable—coming to the bargaining table and negotiating for a contract,” Milner had said in a statement.

Following the JFK8 victory, Smalls and ALU vice-president Derrick Palmer met with Sean O’Brien, president of the 1.2-million member International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which launched an ambitious campaign last year to organise Amazon workers nationwide, in Washington D.C. on Thursday.

The Teamsters plan to provide ALU with “informal resources”, Smalls said with the organisation’s spokesperson Kara Deniz describing the meeting as “really productive”. “The Teamsters welcome the opportunity to provide resources in support of the ALU’s push for a first union contract at the Amazon facility,” she said.

In a statement released on Saturday, the ALU called for negotiations on contracts for the Staten Island facility in early May. ALU’s pro bono attorney Seth Goldstein said, “Amazon always calls itself nimble and innovative. We think that for an organisation like Amazon with so many lawyers and HR people, it’s completely reasonable and something that should be done because our members want to get to a contract.” Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the demand for contract negotiations.

Meanwhile, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union objected on Thursday over alleged interference by Amazon in a separate union election that took place at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, last week. Union opponents currently lead  supporters by 118 votes in that election but 416 challenged votes remain outstanding.

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