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“Occupy The Breakroom!” Amazon Union Prepares for Election Showdown at Staten Island Warehouse

Issue 269

Only the second time that Amazon workers have forced a union election against their notoriously anti-union employer.

Amba Guerguerian Feb 14

Related: Amazon Organizing Drive Stalls in Staten Island, Worker-Run Union Keeps Up the Fight by Lachlan Hyatt and Amba Guerguerian.

On Jan. 26, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certified that organizers with the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) — a group of Amazon employees leading the struggle to unionize the company’s Staten Island warehouses — had gathered enough signatures to force a union election at JFK8, the largest of the four warehouses.

This marks only the second time, following an effort in Bessemer, Alabama, that Amazon workers have forced a union election against their notoriously anti-union employer.

Then, on Feb. 2, the ALU filed a second petition to authorize a union vote. Organizers hope that the estimated 1,500 workers at the LDJ5 warehouse will soon join the roughly 6,000 JFK8 workers in having the chance to vote for union representation.

Amazon is proposing a March election for JFK8, while the worker-organizers want the vote to be delayed until the NLRB rules on an unfair labor practices claim against Amazon that could make it easier for them to communicate with workers inside the facility in advance of a vote. Among the charges against Amazon are forcing workers to attend anti-union “captive audience meetings” disguised as required trainings and on Nov. 15 calling the NYPD on ALU President Chris Smalls and fellow organizer Brett Daniels, who were campaigning at the bus stop on Amazon’s premises.

The union has previously sought to organize from the parking lot outside the warehouses, but it is now taking a different approach.

“We’ve switched up our strategy,” Smalls told The Indypendent. “We’re playing the inside game. We’re occupy- ing the break rooms and have domains in the cafeterias. We are disrupting the captive audience meetings that started back up this week. We are being more militant, a lot more aggressive on the front line; showing the workers that we have collective power.”

On Feb. 4, the NLRB mailed ballots to Bessemer workers in a “rerun election,” through March 25. In late November, the board announced a revote due to Amazon’s egregious anti-union tactics in last year’s election.

Meanwhile, Smalls says he’s in touch with 18 other Amazon facilities that are looking to emulate ALU’s worker-led unionization model at their warehouses. He hopes that if JFK8 wins its election, a domino effect will sweep the country, as is currently underway at Starbucks.

Follow the ALU at amazonlaborunion. org or on Twitter @amazonlabor.

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