Christian Smalls no longer works at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse in New York, but he still sees ex-colleagues at bus stops every day while they go to work.
Its mission: to persuade workers to form a union.
E-commerce Behemoth, one of the largest employers in the United States, has yet to unify its home market.
But Amazon is facing an upcoming vote on three U.S. benefits that could set up a Union Tohold, which some labor experts think could drive the campaign elsewhere.
At JFK8 in the city’s Staten Island borough, 5,000 workers will be able to cast their ballots at Union Bid from March 25 to 30, and the count is set to begin March 31.
A vote at the second Staten Island venue, a polling station where 1,500 people have been recruited, is set to begin on April 25.
In the southern state of Alabama, a warehouse in Bessemer has another opportunity to form a union of more than 6,000 workers. They have until March 25 to vote in the mail and the count will begin there on March 28 and could take up to two weeks.
Last year, a large majority of Bessema beneficiaries voted against the union, but U.S. labor officials overseeing the process threw out the result, citing Amazon’s “intervention.”
Change is needed
Smalls, 33, was fired shortly after organizing a protest for personal protective equipment in the first major Covid-19 outbreak in New York.
Instead of leaving quietly, Smalls spoke of his experience and continued to shout for more support for the staff needed.
Shortly after the first vote in Bessemer, the little ones formed the Amazon Labor Union with current and former Amazon employees.
“I know I’m on the right side of this fight,” Smalls told AFP during a phone-banking event earlier this month where about 20 volunteers gathered to call employees one by one to verify the feasibility of a union. Increase wages, working conditions, benefits and job security.
Isaiah Thomas, 20, who is working tirelessly to finance her studies, is using the same logic to impress her fellow Amazon employees.
In the aftermath of last year’s disaster, the retail, wholesale and department store unions, which support the Alabama campaign, have redoubled their efforts to talk to staff, from door to door and during breaks.
“The moment I stepped through the door on my first day at work, I realized we needed to change at Amazon,” said Thomas, who pointed out security risks, long unreasonable workloads and limited break times.
Thomas Union supporters join the effort after the outreach.
Earlier, he said, “I didn’t really know how a union works,” he said.
Amazon has adopted a similar approach in both New York and Alabama, discouraging employees from supporting them at mandatory meetings and in the workplace through signs and other literature.
The company argues that forming a union would damage the company’s direct relationship with workers and would inadvertently represent a leap, without which workers would not receive good wages or job security.
“Our employees have a choice whether to join a union or not,” said Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for Amazon. “As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees.
“Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue Amazon as a great place to work.”
Nantel spoke of the company’s benefits, which include funding for healthcare and college tuition after three months of work. The company pays competitively with Bessemer, where $ 15.80 per hour is more than double the federal minimum wage.
Ruth Milkman, a sociologist at New York City University’s labor movement, says U.S. labor law stifles dissent on behalf of companies, so a union victory would be significant.
“If any one of these campaigns on Amazon is successful, it will be huge and it will be very inspiring for other people working on Amazon,” Milkman said.
However, “I’m not optimistic,” he said, adding that the New York campaign was not approved by an established union that could finance the organizing effort.
In Besamer, meanwhile, employees have a number of job options that Amazon has as well as pay.
“You may be intimidated by the employer’s propaganda,” Milkman said, adding that workers would “think twice” about rocking the boat.