Amazon is still preparing for its toughest labor fight, with two separate union elections looming next week that could further accelerate the recent wave of organized efforts across the country.
Warehouse workers in Staten Island, New York and Bessemer, Alabama will decide if they want to form a union. If the majority votes yes in both places, it will mark the first successful U.S. organized effort in Amazon’s history. Rejection would be another victory for the country’s second-largest employer in keeping unions at bay.
Here’s how the election will be in Bessemer and Staten Island:
Last April, Bessemer workers overwhelmingly voted against a union bid, providing a bitter defeat for a labor movement that had already lost its impact but gained something during the epidemic. Federal Labor officials later annulled the results and ordered a re-run, tarnishing the Amazon election process.
The ballot for the second election was sent to 6,100 employees in early February. The counting process will begin on Monday and is expected to continue for several days.
Meanwhile, Amazon workers at the Staten Island warehouse began voting privately in their first union election on Friday. The facility is one of Amazon’s largest in New York City with over 8,300 employees. Voting ends Wednesday, and the countdown is expected to begin soon.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is again leading the drive to the Alabama facility. More than 150 union organizers, as well as about 20 other labor groups, have been on the ground since last summer – a bigger push than in the first election – to garner support. Vaccines made it easier for workers to knock on doors during the ongoing epidemic and to visit barber shops, stores and other places to deliver flyers and chat with residents.
Winning can still be difficult. The facility has high turnover, which makes it difficult to create speed. At the same time, organizers estimate that nearly half of the current workers were eligible to vote in the last election, allowing RWDSU to tap new workers who might be more suitable for a union.
On Staten Island, Amazon workers are currently being organized under the leadership of the independent Amazon Labor Union, led by Chris Smalls, a former employee who said he was fired after protesting against warehouse conditions in the early days of the epidemic. (Amazon says it has violated COVID-19 security protocol.)
The newborn union wants to discuss higher wages for workers, higher pay cuts and other benefits, of which 100 sit on its staff committee. Some of them are wearing shirts and masks with group logos during work shifts. Others are handing over pro-union flyers after work and encouraging their colleagues to join the union.
New York Vs. Alabama
The Union Landscape of Alabama is quite different from New York. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, last year, union members accounted for 22.2 percent of New York’s wage and wage workers, second only to Hawaii. Which is more than double the national average of 10.3 percent. In Alabama, it’s 5.9 percent.
Alabama is also a labor rights state that prohibits a company and a union from signing a contract for which workers have to pay arrears to the union they represent. Pro-labor experts say there could be panic by many companies that could weaken the unionized store.
New York is not a right-to-work state, and Amazon is trying to use it to its advantage. The agency is telling employees that if they do union they fail to pay union arrears, which could lead to their dismissal. But that requirement is not mandated across the board for non-right-to-work states and is something that is discussed during the union agreement, says Jennifer Sherra, senior state policy coordinator at the Institute for Left-Leaning Economic Policy.
The majority of Alabama’s black workers, opening in 2020, represent more than 70 percent of the underserved population of blacks, according to the latest U.S. Census. There is very little public transport, so many Amazon workers go to this facility about 100 miles south of Metro Montgomery.
Pro-union workers say they want a better working environment, longer breaks and higher wages. Regular full-time workers at the Bessema facility earn at least $ 15.80 (approximately Rs. 1,200) per hour, which is higher than the city average of approximately $ 14.55 (approximately Rs. 1,100) per hour. The figures are based on an analysis of the average annual household income of মার্কিন 30,284 (approximately Rs. 2,307,000) for the U.S. Census Bureau, which may include multiple employees.
Amazon’s Staten Island facility, which opened in 2018, pays workers a minimum wage of just $ 18 (approximately Rs. 1,300), much less than the average estimate of $ 41 (approximately Rs. 3,100) per hour for boroughs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Staten Island $ 85,381 (approx. 6,503,300) Analysis of average family income.
Employees across the New York metro area track long distances to get to the company’s warehouse, often taking subways, ferries and 40-minute long public buses.
The ALU said Staten Island warehouse workers did not have a demographic breakdown and that Amazon Union declined to provide information to the Associated Press, citing the vote. But internal records leaked to The New York Times from 2019 show that more than 60 percent of the contributors per hour to the facility were black or Latino, while most of the directors were white or Asian.
Amazon sees the union as a threat to its business model, built on fast delivery to customers.
“As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” an Amazon spokesman said in an email statement. “Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue Amazon as a great place to work.”
The online retail giant continues to hammer the message that it offers benefits such as healthcare, 401 (k) plans and a prepaid college tuition program to help employees grow their careers. It has launched a website for workers in both warehouses that casts doubt on the unions’ benefits and explodes mails, text messages, emails and flyers.
It is up to consultants and managers to convene mandatory staff meetings to discuss why unions are a bad idea. According to the labor rules, such meetings are closed on February 4, just before the ballot is sent. But it could continue on Staten Island for 24 hours before the start of the private vote on Friday.
A company spokesman said the meetings provided an opportunity for employees to ask questions and for a union to learn “what it means for them and their daily lives to work on Amazon.”
Unsurprisingly, Amazon has made some changes but still retains a controversial U.S. Postal Service mailbox that was at the heart of the NLRB’s decision to cancel last year’s vote. In February, police arrested Small for allegedly intruding while Amazon officials were delivering food to workers on Staten Island. Two other current unionists were arrested along with him on charges of obstructing government administration.