Of around 1,500 eligible workers, 380 voted in favor of the union and 618 against, with two invalid ballots. The workers’ group was voting on whether or not to join the Amazon Labor Union, which is an independent union not affiliated with major national groups. The first election, at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse, represented about 8,000 workers, while the second election, at the LDJ5 factory, represented about 1,500 workers.
“We are happy that our LDJ5 team was able to make its voice heard. We look forward to continuing to work directly together as we strive to improve every day for our employees,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement to Protocol.
Private sector unionization in the United States has reached historic lows in recent years. About 6% of all private sector workers are union members, according to the Department of Labor Statistics. But Amazon’s votes and a simultaneous massive wave of organizing efforts sweeping Starbucks stores across the country could signal a shift in that dynamic as workers seek better wages and benefits.
“These examples could be powerful enough to make workers in workplaces across the country realize that they have a way of doing things,” said Paul Clark, director of the labor and employment relations program at Pennsylvania State University, to Protocol after the first labor victory in April. “This will send a signal to private sector workers across the country that if you are unhappy with your workplace and your employer, there is an option for you.”
Amazon has been forced to raise wages and offer other benefits and incentives in response to the tight labor market in recent quarters, which has significantly increased the company’s labor expenses, according to its 2021 quarterly fiscal reports. The company announced in its first quarter report that it was no longer struggling with staffing and capacity issues. A successful union organizing wave could still twist Amazon’s arm to improve wages and benefits, though the loss of Staten Island’s second plant could blunt momentum.
There are key differences between the LDJ5 workers who voted against the union and those who voted to unionize in April at the JFK8 plant. The former is smaller and largely part-time while the JFK8 group consists mostly of full-time workers.
The ALU is led by Chris Smalls and Derrick Palmer, activists who formed the group as part of their efforts to protest working conditions at the Staten Island complex of warehouses and delivery facilities. The ALU won the first union election by more than 500 votes, and Amazon is now challenging the results, accusing both the ALU and the NLRB of unlawful interference on behalf of the union.
The NLRB will hold a hearing on Amazon’s objections to JFK8’s election on May 23, after which an administrative judge will rule on the validity of those objections and whether their validity merits dismissing the election results. The hearing will be held in Arizona instead of New York because Amazon accuses New York officials of conduct in favor of the union that violated the law.
An ongoing effort to organize workers in Bessemer, Alabama, is currently further down the same process of objections and hearings; after a majority of workers voted not to unionize in 2021, the NLRB ruled in favor of the objections filed by the retail, wholesale and department store union and rejected the results of the election, ordering a re-vote which ended in April 2022. The results of this second election are still pending based on the rulings on the contested ballots, although it seems likely that Amazon will win a second time .
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has also made organizing Amazon a national priority, advocating for state-level bills that would require Amazon to be more transparent about productivity expectations in its warehouses and organizing driver groups. and warehouse workers in the United States and Canada. Teamsters President Sean O’Brien applauded the ALU after their win at Staten Island in April and promised the group would increase their organizing efforts and pressure on Amazon in response. And in Canada, a Teamsters group filed a petition in April for a union election in Alberta and the Northwest Territories for thousands of workers there.
The ALU did not immediately respond to request for comment.
This story has been updated with a statement from Amazon.