Amazon is locked in a tight union vote in two U.S. states

According to preliminary results on Thursday, Amazon employees in Alabama appear to have rejected a union bid in a tough competition. But outstandingly competitive voting could change the outcome.

In New York, Union supporters have the edge in a countdown that will continue Friday morning.

In Bessemer, Alabama warehouse workers voted 993 to 875 against forming a union. The National Labor Relations Board, which oversees the election, said 416 challenging votes could potentially overturn that result. There will be a hearing in the next few days to get through the challenged ballot.

Meanwhile, in a separate union election on Staten Island in New York, the nascent Amazon Labor Union is leading with more than 350 votes out of a total of 2,670 votes.

Bessemar’s close election marks a sharp contrast to last year, when Amazon workers unreservedly rejected the union.

“This is just the beginning and we will continue to fight,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which organizes Union Drive in Bessemer, at a news conference Thursday. “Regardless of the final result, the staff has shown what is possible. They have helped to create a movement. “

Applebam said RWDSU would file an objection to how Amazon conducted the election, but declined to be specific. He also took the opportunity to attack current labor laws, which he believes have been manipulated by unions and corporations.

“Organizing a union in the United States should not be so difficult,” he said.

If a majority of Amazon employees vote yes in Bessemer or Staten Island, it would mark the first successful U.S. organized effort in the company’s history. Organizers are facing a bitter battle against the country’s second-largest private employer, which is making every effort to keep the unions at bay.

In New York, ALU has taken on the responsibility of forming a union with Chris Smalls, a sacked Amazon employee who is now the head of the fugitive group. Voting for the individual election was unclear but Smalls was optimistic about winning.

“Leading the first day and being a few hundred against a trillion-dollar company, that’s the best feeling in the world,” Smalls said after concluding the count on Thursday.

While Smalls focused on ensuring victory in New York, similar efforts were heavy in Alabama.

“I’m not sure what’s going on in Alabama right now, but I know there are limits to what you can do to organize a warehouse,” he said, noting that voting in Alabama could end otherwise. “I hope they succeed. I don’t know yet what is happening, but we know we are expressing our support and solidarity with them. “

The Staten Island warehouse employs more than 8,300 people, delivering and delivering goods mostly to customers in the Northeast. Labor triumphs there were thought to be difficult, but organizers believe their grassroots approach is more relevant to workers and can help them overcome where previously established unions have failed.

John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University, said New York’s initial vote count was “surprising.” ALU has no support from an established union and is run by former and current warehouse workers. The group applied for a union election after receiving support from about 30 percent of the benefits workers, much less than what the unions usually want.

“I don’t think a lot of people thought the Amazon Labor Union was more likely to win,” Logan said. “And I think we’ll probably see them go further.”

Although RWDSU is currently lagging behind with extremely challenging ballots, Logan said the election was significant because the union made a good effort to narrow its gap from last year’s election.

After a catastrophic defeat last year, when a majority of workers voted against forming a union, RWDSU is expecting a different outcome in the Bessema election, where 6,100 workers were sent mail-in ballots in early February. Federal Labor officials there annulled the results of the first election and ordered a re-run after tarnishing the Amazon election process.

RWDSU said the turnout was about 39 percent this year, much lower than last year. Applebaum blamed low numbers for the high turnover – he believes thousands of people who worked for Amazon in January and were on the official list were either fired or fired. He further believes that a personal election, which RWDSU wanted, would make a difference

Amazon has fallen sharply in both elections. The retail giant held mandatory meetings, where workers were told that unions were a bad idea. The agency also launched an anti-union website targeting workers and placed English and Spanish posters across the Staten Island facility urging them to reject the union. 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.

Both labor struggles faced unique challenges. Alabama, for example, is a labor rights state that prohibits a company and a union from signing a contract for which workers have to pay the dues of the union they represent.

Most of the black workers at the Amazon facility, which opened in 2020, reflect blacks, who make up more than 70 percent of the population, according to a recent U.S. census.

Pro-union activists say they want a better work environment, longer breaks and higher wages. Regular full-time employees at the Bessema facility earn at least $ 15.80 (approximately Rs. 1,200) per hour, which is more than the average estimate of $ 14.55 (approximately Rs. 1,100) per hour in the city. The figures are based on the US Census Bureau’s analysis of Bessemer’s average annual household income of $ 30,284 (approximately Rs. 23 lakhs), which may include multiple employees.

The ALU said it did not have a demographic breakdown of its Staten Island warehouse workers, and Amazon Union declined to provide information to the Associated Press, citing the vote. 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 workers there are demanding long breaks, part-time pay for injured workers and wages of $ 30 (approximately Rs. 2,280) per hour, which is more than the minimum $ 18 (approximately Rs. 1,370) per hour offered by the company. The estimated average wage for a borough is $ 41 per hour (approximately Rs. 3,110), according to an analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau, which equates to েন 85,381 (approximately Rs. 64.7 million) in Staten Island.

A spokesman for Amazon said the company was investing in wages and benefits, such as healthcare, a 401 (k) plan and a prepaid college tuition program to help employees grow their careers.

“As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” the spokesman said in an email statement. “Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue to make Amazon a great place to work.”

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