Thursday, May 30, 2024

Amazon’s first US consortium failed in a second warehouse

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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The Amazon Workers’ Union (ALU), on the basis of the first resounding victory at the beginning of April, could not immediately renew its exploits: the employees of the Amazon sorting center in New York voted overwhelmingly against the organization’s arrival at their site.

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According to a count posted online, 618 workers at a warehouse called LDJ5 voted “no” when asked if they wanted to be represented by the ALU, compared to 380 who voted “yes.” The participation rate was 61%.

The organization admitted defeat but warned that it would continue its campaign.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We all know there will be victories and defeats,” reacted shortly afterwards from Count Christian Smalls, president of the ALU.

In front of the New York office of the agency responsible for overseeing the ballot, the NLRB, disappointment appeared on the faces of the ten members present at the union, an AFP journalist noted. She was a young woman crying, and many denounced Amazon’s intimidation maneuvers as voting time approached.

“I am very upset,” said Michael Aguilar, an employee at LDJ5. “A lot of workers were openly saying they were against the union (…), but there were also a lot of people who were hesitant,” he explained. Apparently they were “convinced by Amazon propaganda” that they “used all the lows to not beat another site”.

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ALU pulled the plug at the beginning of April when it became the company’s first consortium in the United States, inside the JFK8 warehouse in the Staten Island area of ​​New York.

The second largest employer in the United States after distribution giant Walmart, Amazon has so far fended off the desires of employees wanting to regroup in the country since its inception in 1994.

“Back to Fight”

In the wake of its first success, ALU sparked excitement, with its members claiming to have been contacted by warehouse representatives across the country.

The organization was hoping for another victory at the LDJ5 triage center, located opposite JFK8.

US President Joe Biden himself had made a strong plea in favor of unions in early April, declaring during his speech: “Along with Amazon, we are coming…”

But pressure from the company founded by Jeff Bezos was “stronger than the first time,” with the company committing “illegal acts” to counter the union campaign, asserted Eric Milner, an attorney representing the ALU, referring specifically to disciplinary action against unionists. .

For Christian Smalls, the difference was mainly due to the fact that the unionists leading the campaign in JFK8 had been working there for several years, while those leading the fight in LDJ5 “were only there for a few months”.

He emphasized that for the rest, the team “will take a break, re-evaluate the situation, regain strength (…) and return to the fight.”

The Arab League, as well as the entire union movement, must now find “how to keep the momentum alive” resulting from the first victory, Patricia Campos Medina, co-director of the university’s Labor Institute, told AFP.

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Several large unions have already expressed their willingness to provide logistical and legal support to the ALU, and all of these organizations need to coordinate the campaign in multiple warehouses simultaneously, she said.

In the end, she added, only if they can score many victories will Amazon “agree to negotiate”.

The group, for its part, expressed relief on Monday, and indicated that it was “impatient to continue working directly (with staff)”.

The company has filed an appeal against the result of the vote in JFK8, alleging privately that ALU members have “intimidated” employees and accusing the New York branch of the NLRB of bias.

An official from another NLRB branch where the case was transferred, in Phoenix, agreed to hold a mass objection hearing on May 23.

Motivated by their company’s stance during the pandemic, particularly with regard to health protection, and more recently due to inflation, various groups of employees in different companies are currently trying to organize themselves.

At Starbucks in particular, in the wake of its first symbolic victory in December, employees of more than 250 coffee shops have filed to organize voting and more than forty have so far voted to create a union within their establishment.

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