New York warehouse deals blow to Amazon union movement

Workers at the facility voted against unionizing with the ALU, a result that is a setback to the mobilization efforts at the company

Trabajadores del almacén LDJ5 de Amazon en Staten Island (Nueva York)
Workers at Amazon's LDJ5 warehouse in Staten Island, New York, this Monday after learning the result of the vote.DAVID DEE DELGADO (REUTERS)

The movement to unionize Amazon workers in the United States suffered a blow on Monday when an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York voted against unionizing. The workers at the package sort center, called LDJ5, voted 618 to 380 against unionizing with the newly formed Amazon Labor Union, according to the count by the National Labor Relations Board. But there was also a high abstention rate: of the 1,600 employees with the right to vote, most of whom are part-time workers, only 1,000 participated.

The vote is a setback to the ALU, which won an unexpected victory in April at a nearby Amazon fulfillment center called JFK8. The historic vote established Amazon’s first-ever union. Until the launch of ALU in April, Amazon had managed to stop all unionization efforts.

JFK8 and LDJ5 are both located on Staten Island, just down the street from one another, but there are key differences between them. JFK8 is a larger distribution center, and most of the workers are full-time, while at LDJ5, most of the employees are on precarious, part-time contracts.

The vote on Monday is the latest chapter of the movement to unionize Amazon workers. These efforts have been met with a series of setbacks. Last year, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama voted overwhelmingly against unionizing. A federal ruling found that the retail giant had unfairly influenced the election, and a re-vote was held in March, which also ended in defeat. Amazon is now seeking to overturn the union victory at JFK8 on the grounds the ALU intimidated workers to vote for the union. It also accuses the National Labor Relations Board in New York, which is in charge of supervising the vote, of being biased.

Following the defeat on Monday, there is now concern the setback could not only weaken the union mobilization of Amazon workers, but also the trade union movement more broadly. This movement has been on the rise, buoyed by a pro-union US president and the imbalance in the labor market, with more supply than demand – especially in poorly paid positions. Since 2021, the number of requests to hold union votes has jumped 60%. These unionizing efforts have not only been seen among workers in the service sector, but also among professionals in fields such as architecture and media.

And Amazon is not the only large American company to watch, stunned, as trade union consciousness awakens. Workers at the Starbucks coffee chain and the sports equipment company REI have also held union votes. But all eyes are on Amazon: not only because it is the second-largest employer in the US, after the department store Walmart, but also because of the type of work that is carried out and the contractual relationship the company has with its workforce.

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