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Huge Labor Victory at Amazon: New York Warehouse Approves Creation of Company’s First Union | Economy

Chris Smalls (center, wearing dark glasses) celebrates the victory accompanied by other Amazon workers, this Friday in New York.
Chris Smalls (center, wearing dark glasses) celebrates the victory accompanied by other Amazon workers, this Friday in New York.BRENDAN MCDERMID (REUTERS)

Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, will form the e-commerce giant’s first union. By a clear majority, the employees of the large logistics center, known as JFK8 and which supplies products to the Big Apple, have spoken in favor of a proposal that, in other technology facilities, such as the Bessemer (Alabama) warehouse, progresses in fits and starts. The voting process in Staten Island, which the leaders of the mobilization denounced having been tripped up by the company, concluded this Friday, with the result of 2,654 votes in favor and 2,131 against.

The massive response from Amazon workers is also a boost for the ailing union movement in the US, with a membership rate of 10.3% last year, the lowest in decades. Parallel to the Staten Island vote, the consultation held last April in the Alabama warehouse has been repeated, after the authorities ruled that the company had interfered in the call and celebration. The data is not as positive as that of New York. Against 875 votes in favour, 993 Bessemer workers have voted against forming a union. A closer result even than the one registered a year ago, according to data published this Thursday by the labor relations board, an independent federal agency that protects the union rights of private sector workers.

The important victory of the Staten Island workers is the result of the efforts of Christian Smalls, a worker who was fired during the pandemic for questioning the safety and hygiene protocol against covid-19. Unlike similar initiatives, such as the one in Alabama—launched under the umbrella of the nation’s largest retail trade union—Smalls laid the groundwork for the Amazon Workers Union. The result of the consultation represents a considerable setback for the Seattle company, known for torpedoing the mobilization of its workers with interference in rallies and meetings – those of the Staten Island workers were held at a bus stop at the gates of the enclosure – and the sending of numerous anti-union messages.

This morning Smalls declared victory over the giant outside the Brooklyn headquarters of the labor relations board. “CONGRATULATIONS,” he tweeted himself, in all caps. “We worked, we had fun and we made history”.

“Amazon has shown a willingness to spend unlimited resources on anti-union campaigns, and the truth is that these workers have won against all odds,” said Rebecca Givan, a professor of labor studies at Rutgers University, quoted by the digital newspaper DailyNews. “It’s a historic victory that will likely have a huge impact on Amazon.”

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As the vote count concluded, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez congratulated the workers at JFK8. Last year, before the first vote at the Alabama complex, Senator Bernie Sanders, also a Democrat, made his support for the workers clear with several visits to the plant. But it is not just representatives of the left wing of the Democrats who are cheering on the growing awareness of workers. President Joe Biden is a champion of union organizing and leads by example, such as the measures taken by the federal government to make the Administration a model of good labor practices. The union spring in the United States, a time of effervescence that is due to the conjunction of several factors —from the impact of the pandemic to the more than abundant supply of work, with millions of positions to be filled, or the massive abandonment of the well-known labor market like the Great Renunciation—has reaped its first victory.

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