On April 1, the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) won a historic victory by becoming the first union in the United States to unionize an Amazon workplace. Workers at JFK8, an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island voted YES for a union by a 10% margin with a final tally of 2,654 “Yes” votes to 2,131 “No” votes. (In February, Amazon claimed that over 8,000 people work at JFK8, but the union maintains that number is more likely around 6,500).
We spoke with some of the ALU organizers shortly after the last vote was tallied at the National Labor Relations Board in Downtown Brooklyn, New York. Watch this video to see their raw reactions to winning after 11 months of an extremely hard-fought, on-the-ground unionization battle.
The ALU’s origins date back to the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic, when workers Christian Smalls, Gerald Bryson, Jordan Flowers and Derrick Palmer (the “original four”) led a walkout in protest of unsafe working conditions at JFK8 and managerial cover-ups. In retaliation, Amazon fired Smalls and Bryson. The original four then teamed up to launch The Congress Of Essential Workers (TCOEW) in May 2020 at a time when people were reaching out of windows to bang pots for workers who didn’t have PPE. With the full support of TCOEW, Smalls then spearheaded the unionization campaign with the help of the others.
In the year since it launched in April 2021, the ALU hasn’t stopped to catch a breath. Through grueling days and sleepless nights, the core group of about 20 organizer-members have become friends and created a sense of community and camaraderie necessary for a successful union. JFK8 is the largest of the four warehouses at the Staten Island complex. Having won the election at JFK8, the largest of four warehouses at Amazon’s Staten Island complex, ALU members now hope to unionize the remaining 3,000 or so Staten Island workers. The second-largest warehouse, LDJ5, which employs around 1,500 workers, will have a union election April 25-29. In the meantime, organizers are working to have union elections authorized at the two other Staten Island warehouses, DYX2 and DYY6. From there, they plan to spread their fully worker-led union to warehouses around New York and across the country.
We have been closely following the struggle to unionize Amazon for months and will continue to do so. Check out some of our previous coverage, and keep reading The Indy for more! We also post frequent updates on our Twitter page. Enjoy!
Meet the Workers Who Built a Union at Amazon’s Staten Island Complex
By Amba Guerguerian
Amazon Organizing Drive Stalls, Worker-Run Union Keeps Up the Fight
By Lachlan Hyatt and Amba Guerguerian
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