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Amazon workers in New York face setback over union campaign

NEW YORK (AFP) – Workers at an Amazon factory in New York voted against unionization, causing a setback to a burgeoning organized labor movement a month after a historic victory at a nearby warehouse.

Sixty-two percent of workers at the Staten Island plant opposed the union push, with 618 employees voting no and 380 in favour, according to results released Monday by U.S. officials.

The election at the LDJ5 warehouse followed an upset victory on April 1 by the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) over the much larger JFK8 Staten Island company site – which established America’s first union at the sales colossus by retail.

Last month’s victory was one of the biggest recent victories for U.S. unions, winning plaudits from U.S. President Joe Biden and other high-profile unions, some of whom traveled to Staten Island ahead of the second vote.

But the ALU has acknowledged its latest setback at Amazon – the second-largest private employer in the United States after Walmart.

“The count is over. The election ended without the union being recognized,” the ALU said on Twitter. “The organization will continue in this facility and beyond. The fight has just begun. »

Union campaign supporters said Amazon was well-prepared for the latest vote and campaigned aggressively to undo the momentum of the previous victory.

A woman holds a sign as Amazon and unionized workers attend a rally outside the company building in New York. PHOTO: AFP

To further complicate their efforts, the union leaders were not as well known as at JFK8, where ALU President Christian Smalls had previously worked.

Smalls launched the campaign after being fired in March 2020 for leading a protest for personal protective equipment during the first major outbreak of COVID-19 in New York City.

“At the end of the day, it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Smalls told reporters. “We all know there will be wins and losses, we will fight another day.”

On the other side of the fight, Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said the company was “pleased our team at LDJ5 was able to make their voices heard.”

“We look forward to continuing to work directly together as we strive to improve every day for our employees.”

Since its launch in the 1990s, Amazon has fought hard to remain union-free, seeking to maintain its direct line to workers and boost wages and benefits during the pandemic when “essential workers” in logistics kept the economy going.

An attorney representing the ALU, Eric Milner, called Monday’s result “disappointing,” but said it reflected the effects of “unlawful conduct” by Amazon on workers’ discipline habits and to “cool down” trade union activity.

Analyzing the result, Cornell University Workers’ Institute co-director Patricia Campos-Medina said Smalls’ experience as an employee gave her “credibility” with workers – but that he had run out of time to build his credibility in the second establishment.

She said it will be essential for the union to “keep winning” to pressure Amazon to bargain, building on the support of the Teamsters and other established unions.

“They have already expressed their willingness to support ALU, logistically and legally,” said Campos-
said Medina.

“What has to happen now is actually all of these unions that were planning to organize Amazon, now they have to do it. It must be a multi-faceted organizing effort of society, it cannot be one-by-one.

For now, Amazon is contesting the ALU’s victory in April, saying task force representatives were intimidating workers and U.S. National Labor Relations Board officials were biased against the company.

A hearing on Amazon’s complaints is scheduled for May 23 in Phoenix.