Workers at Amazon’s giant warehouse on Staten Island voted by a wide margin to form a union, according to results released on Friday, a stunning victory for a campaign targeting the country’s second-largest employer and one of the biggest wins for organized labor. Firm
Employees voted 2,654 and 2,131 against to represent the Amazon Labor Union, giving the union a victory by about 10 percentage points, according to preliminary figures released by the National Labor Relations Board. More than 8,300 workers in the building, the only Amazon fulfillment center in New York City, were eligible to vote.
The victory over Staten Island could usher in a new era for labor unions in the United States, which, despite widespread labor shortages and pockets of successful labor activity, saw its share of unions fall to 10.3 percent last year, the lowest rate in decades.
No union victory is greater than the first victory over Amazon in the United States, which many union leaders see as an existential threat to labor standards across the economy as it touches and dominates many industries.
The campaign, led by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union, resulted in Staten Island waiting to see what the trend would be towards narrow losses at the large Amazon warehouse in Alabama. The vote is so close that the results will not be known for several weeks as the contested ballots are being sued.
The astonishing strength shown by the unions in both places probably means that Amazon will have to face years of labor pressure from independent labor groups, large unions targeting the company, and environmental and other progressive activists working with them. As the latest string of Union wins at Starbucks shows, a win in one place can boost others.
Amazon has hired Gourmet over the past two years and now has 1.6 million employees globally. But it suffers from high turnover, and the epidemic gave employees a growing sense of power while fueling concerns about workplace safety. The Staten Island warehouse, known as JFK8, was the subject of an investigation by the New York Times last year, which found that it was a symbol of stress in Amazon’s employment model.
“The epidemic has fundamentally changed the labor landscape,” said John Logan, a professor of labor studies at San Francisco State University. “It’s just a question of whether unions can take advantage of the opportunity that change has opened up.”
Amazon did not immediately comment on the outcome. The company may challenge the vote on the grounds that the union’s conduct is in principle inappropriate.
Derrick Palmer, who packs boxes in the warehouse and co-founded the Amazon Labor Union, said he expects other facilities to follow Staten Island. “This will be the first union,” he said, “but going forward, it will motivate other workers to come on board with us.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.