After recently forming the first union at an Amazon warehouse in the United States, Amazon’s new union suffered a setback on Monday by losing an election at another Staten Island facility.
In a vote count organized by the National Labor Relations Board, workers at Amazon’s sorting facility known as LDJ5 rejected unionization by a count of 618-380. The labor board has yet to certify the results to make them official, and the union could challenge them.
The Staten Island warehouse known as JFK8, which employs 8,000 people, was the first Amazon site in the United States to unionize, when workers voted 2,654 to 2,131 in favor of the formation of a union at the end of March.
The small LDJ5 factory employs around 1,500 people. Had they scored another victory for the Amazon Labor Union, it could have fueled one of the most watched organizing drives in generations.
Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in a statement that the company was “pleased” that workers were able to “have their voices heard”.
“We look forward to continuing to work directly together as we strive to improve every day for our employees,” Nantel said.
Seth Goldstein, an attorney who advised the Amazon Labor Union, told HuffPost that the union was “weighing our options” regarding challenging the election results based on Amazon’s conduct. He would have until May 9 to do so.
Goldstein said the results were not a major setback and predicted there would be more elections to come.
“They will win and they will lose,” he said of the pro-union workers. “That’s not going to stop the organization.”
Amazon has aggressively fought union efforts at all of its warehouses. The company has deployed managers and outside anti-union consultants organize group meetings and individual conversations with workers, urging them to vote against the union. The company spent about $4.3 million on these consultants last year.
The union accused Amazon of violating labor laws by retaliating against pro-union workers and issuing threats. The NLRB’s General Counsel found some of the union’s allegations to be substantiated.
The union could challenge LDJ5’s results, alleging that Amazon illegally influenced the vote. Labor council officials found that Amazon did so in another union election in Alabama last year, ordering a recast vote that took place there in March. The results of this election are still unclear due to disputed ballots.
Amazon accused the Amazon Labor Union of interfering in the vote at JFK8, asking the labor board to overturn the union’s victory there. The labor board has yet to investigate Amazon’s claims related to this election.
The new Amazon Labor Union was co-founded by Christian Smalls, a former Amazon employee whom the company fired after going on strike over safety concerns at the start of the pandemic. Smalls and his fellow organizers formed a strong committee inside the JFK8 warehouse to fighting Amazon’s anti-union message and embolden pro-union colleagues.
After the vote tally on Monday, Smalls took to Twitter and told his followers not to get discouraged with the LDJ5 results. He said it was a more difficult facility to organize than the warehouse where the union won:
The election victory at JFK8 shocked the labor movement because the Amazon Labor Union only existed last year and generally lacks the resources of an established union.
Along with organizing success at Starbucks, the union’s earlier victory helped rekindle hopes of a workforce resurgence after decades of declining union membership rates. Today, only 1 in 10 workers is a member of a union, up from double in the early 1980s. Union density is particularly low in the private sector, where only 6.1% of workers are unionized.