May 24, 2024

A federal labor board on Monday will count ballots cast by warehouse workers in a second Amazon union election on Staten Island.

The National Labor Relations Board is overseeing the election and expects to finish tallying the votes by Monday evening.

A separate election held last month gave a nascent group of organizers known as the Amazon Labor Union a surprise victory when workers at a different Staten Island facility voted in favor of unionizing. That was a first for Amazon in the U.S.

But it’s unclear whether the ALU can replicate its success. There are fewer workers eligible to vote this time around — about 1,500 compared with 8,300 — and turnover at the facility is high. There are also fewer organizers involved in the latest election than the one before it.

The same obstacles that plagued the effort the first time, including Amazon’s aggressive anti-union tactics, are at play again. In the lead-up to the election, Amazon continued to hold mandatory meetings to persuade its workers to reject the union effort, posted anti-union flyers and launched a website urging workers to “vote NO.”

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“Right now, the ALU is trying to come between our relationship with you,” a post on the website reads. “They think they can do a better job advocating for you than you are doing for yourself.”

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement that it is its employees choice whether or not they want to join a union. But “as a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” Nantel said. “Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work.”

A second labor win could give workers in other Amazon facilities — and at other companies — the motivation they need to launch similar efforts. It could also cement the power and influence of the ALU.

“We already have interests in other buildings,” Christian Smalls, who spearheaded the fledgling Amazon Labor Union’s (ALU) battle against the $1.7 trillion company, told CBS News last month, in outlining what the group is planning next.

However, a union loss could mute some of the recent labor celebration and raise questions about whether the first victory was just a fluke.

Regardless of the outcome, it’s bound to be a tough road ahead for the ALU. Amazon has disputed the first election. Among other things, the company accused organizing members of the ALU of threatening warehouse workers to vote in favor of the organizing effort. Eric Milner, an attorney representing the ALU, said the claims were “patently absurd.”

arguing in a filing with the NLRB that the vote was tainted by organizers and by the board’s regional office in Brooklyn that oversaw the election. The company says it wants a redo election, but pro-union experts believe it’s an effort to delay contract negotiations and potentially blunt some of the organizing momentum.

Alabama vote still in doubt

Meanwhile, the final outcome of a separate union election in Bessemer, Alabama, is still up in the air with hundreds of outstanding challenged ballots hanging in the balance. 

The initial count showed a majority voted against unionization, with about 52% of returned ballots voting against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and 48% voting in favor. Just 39% of the 6,000 workers in the facility returned ballots. 

The number of challenged ballots, 416, is enough to change the outcome and will need to be investigated by the NLRB before a final tally is reached. RWDSU president Stuart Applebaum told CBS News in March that both the union and Amazon had challenged ballots. 

Despite the low turnout for returned ballots, Applebaum tried to push a hopeful note on March 31 after the final count.

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“Workers here are also sending a clear message – it’s long past time for Jeff Bezos to return to Earth and to start dealing with the very real problems his employees face everyday at his facilities across the country,” Applebaum said. 

Hearings to review those ballots are expected to begin in the coming weeks.

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