It’s been a predictably wild ride for unionization efforts at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama fulfillment center. After a hard-fought battle, the retail giant emerged victorious last April. While workers had received support from representatives on the political spectrum ranging from Bernie Sanders to Marco Rubio, it was a lop-sided victory — and one immediately challenged by union reps.
The RWDSU managed to score a victory toward the end of the year, as the The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) agreed to conduct a second vote, following accusations that Amazon had been “gaslighting” employees through “egregious and blatantly illegal action.” In January, the NLRB announced that the secret ballot vote was set to begin February 4. On Monday, March 28, vote tallying begins for what has thus far been an historic push.
Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse is facing a similar push — albeit with a significantly smaller voting window. The voting, which begins today, is set to run through March 31, at which point counting will commence. Unlike the Alabama’s mail-in election, this one is being held in-person, which had been the source of some tension with the earlier vote.
The labor push has already seen some controversy. Christian Smalls, a former JFK8 employee turned union advocate, was arrested along with two others in late-February over trespassing charges. Smalls refuted the charges, stating that the trio were on-sight to drop off food for with Amazon employees. “This is simply Amazon creating a situation,” he told press. “It’s a bad look.” The company countered with their own statement, telling the media that he “has repeatedly trespassed despite multiple warnings.”
Amazon has been accused of union suppression tactics previously, likely concerned that any successful union push could be a bellwether for a company whose treatment of workers has faced staunch criticism for years. A successful push would almost certainly embolden workers at more Amazon warehouses. Conditions during the pandemic have also been a motivating factor for many.
“We look forward to having our employees’ voices heard,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work.”
Notably, the company is one of several large U.S. brands facing increased interest in organizing. Earlier this month, workers at a Manhattan REI story voted to unionize. A kind of domino effect has also been unfolding at Starbucks around the country, beginning with a Buffalo, New York location. Stores in Mesa, Arizona and — earlier this week — the coffee chain’s home base of Seattle have followed suit.