Amazon workers in New York voted to unite in a union on Friday, the first successful event in the U.S. in the history of the retail giant.

NEW YORK CITY – Amazon workers on Staten Island, New York, on Friday voted to unite in a union that was the first successful event in the U.S. in the history of the retail giant and gave an unexpected victory to the nascent group that spurred the union movement. .

Warehouse workers cast 2,654 votes in favor of creating the union, giving Amazon’s new labor union (ALU) enough support to win. According to National Labor Relations Counciloverseeing the process, 2,131 workers rejected the union’s application.

The 67 ballots that were challenged by either Amazon or ALU were not enough to affect the outcome. About 57% of the more than 8,300 employees on the voter list voted.

Federal labor officials have said the results of the count will not be verified until they have processed any objections that may be filed by both parties. All objections are accepted until April 8.

“The labor movement congratulates Staten Island workers on winning Amazon’s first union,” MLK work This is stated in a statement by Executive Secretary-Treasurer Katie Garrow. “It’s a historic moment, and it has the power to shape America’s future.”

The victory was a tough battle for an independent group made up of former and current workers who had no official support from the established union and were ahead of the retail giants with deep pockets. Despite the obstacles, organizers believed their bottom-up approach was more appropriate for workers and could help them overcome where established unions have failed in the past.

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“We are disappointed with the results of the Staten Island election because we believe that a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees,” Amazon said in a statement. “We evaluate our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence of the NLRB, which we and others (including the National Retail Federation and the US Chamber of Commerce) have witnessed in this election.”

Tristan Datchin, who started working in an online store about a year ago, hopes the new union will improve working conditions in his workplace.

“I’m glad we’re making history,” Datchin said. “We are going to unite a multi-billion trillion company. It will be a fantastic time for workers who will be surrounded by a better, safer work environment. ”

Chris Smalls, a fired Amazon employee who led the ALU in the fight on Staten Island, on Friday along with other union organizers walked around the NLRB building in Brooklyn, clenching his fists and jumping, chanting “ALU.” They uncorked a bottle of champagne.

Meanwhile, Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, seems to have rejected the union’s application but outstanding contested ballots can change the outcome. 993 against 875 voted against the union. It is expected that hearings on 416 disputed ballots will begin in the coming days.

Trade union campaigns occur during widespread labor unrest at many corporations. For example, workers at more than 140 Starbucks centers across the country have applied for union elections, and some have already been successful.

John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University, said the early vote count in New York was “shocking.” The nascent Amazon Labor Union, which heads to Staten Island, has no support from the established union and is run by former and current warehouse workers.

“I don’t think a lot of people thought the Amazon Labor Union had a good chance of winning at all,” Logan said. “And I think we’ll probably see more of those (approaches) in the future.”

After a crushing defeat last year in Bessemer, when most workers voted against the creation of the unionThe Union of Retailers, Wholesalers and Department Stores got a second chance to organize another campaign when the NLRB ordered a redesign after determining that Amazon had ruined the first election.

Although RWDSU is currently lagging behind in the last election, Logan said the early results are still excellent because the union has made good efforts to reduce its advantage over last year.

Amazon pushed back sharply on the eve of both elections. The retail giant held mandatory meetings at which workers were told that unions were a bad idea. The company also launched an anti-union website targeted at workers, and posted English and Spanish posters throughout Staten Island, urging them to abandon the union. In Bessemer, Amazon made some changes to the U.S. Postal Service’s mailbox, but still retained the controversy that was key in the NLRB’s decision to invalidate last year’s vote.

In a statement released Thursday, Amazon said it had spent about $ 4.2 million last year on job consultants, organizers say the retailer regularly requires to persuade workers not to unite. It is unclear how much he spent on such services in 2022.

Both labor struggles faced unique challenges. Alabama, for example, is a state with the right to work that prohibits companies and unions from signing a contract that requires workers to pay dues to the union that represents them.

The Union landscape in Alabama is also drastically different from New York City. Last year, union members made up 22.2% of employees in New York, second only to Hawaii, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is more than twice the national average of 10.3%. In Alabama it is 5.9%.

According to the latest U.S. Census data, the predominantly black workforce at Amazon, which opened in 2020, reflects Bessemer’s population, which is more than 70% black.

Trade unionists say they want better working conditions, longer breaks and higher wages. Ordinary full-time employees at Bessemer earn at least $ 15.80 an hour, which is above $ 14.55 an hour on average in the city. This figure is based on an analysis of the annual average family income of the Census Bureau for Bessemer at $ 30,284, which may include more than one employee.

The ALU said they had no demographic breakdown of warehouse workers on Staten Island, and Amazon declined to provide information to the Associated Press, citing a union vote. Domestic records leaked to The New York Times from 2019 showed that more than 60% of the institution’s hourly staff were black or Hispanic, while most executives were white or Asian.

Amazon employees want longer breaks, paid leave for affected employees and an hourly wage of $ 30, compared to the minimum of $ 18 per hour offered by the company. The average wage in the district is $ 41 an hour, according to a similar analysis by the Staten Island Census Bureau, with an average family income of $ 85,381.

Stacey Mitchell is co-director of the Institute of Local Self-Service and has written extensively on Amazon’s business practices, comparing the company to the old railroad system.

“This is a company that has so much control over the internet market that, you know, other businesses that produce and sell goods have to essentially go on the Amazon rails, they have to sell on the Amazon platform. Amazon’s dominance in the warehousing and logistics sector also means it has incredible control over workers … the ability to set wages and working conditions. Indeed, we have seen Amazon reduce wages and working conditions for people involved in warehousing and package delivery. ”

Mitchell said she found the Staten Island vote along with the Bessemer vote noticeable because “We see this new in this new energy and workers’ organization, and in this new antitrust movement that, you know, black and brown Americans you you know it’s really leading, including at the Staten Island facility, and that it’s really, you know, creating a broad, diverse middle class. ”

Staten Island workers will still need to contract with Amazon, among other steps, and Mitchell says he expects the company to delay the discussion. “Amazon will obviously do its best to fight this. They will try to challenge this in different ways. They will try to delay the contract negotiations, which, however, are difficult. On the other hand, you see unions like Teamsters who say they really see this fight with Amazon as central to the future of the U.S. workforce. ”

In an interview, Gerow called the vote “a turning point for the labor movement.”

She challenges Amazon’s characterization, especially in Bessemer, that merging into unions could lead to lower wages based on union dues and other market conditions.

“Statistics show that union workers receive higher wages than non-union workers,” she said. Garrow also says she believes voting on Staten Island will push others in the warehouse workers movement. “This will inspire other Amazon employees as well as large corporations that previously seemed untouchables,” she said, noting recent voices from Starbucks baristas and exits from Kent’s distribution centers in the past.

An Amazon spokesman said the company is investing in salaries and benefits such as health care, 401 (k) plans and a prepaid college tuition program to help workers ’careers.

“As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” a spokesman said in an e-mail. “Our focus is on working directly with our team to continue to make Amazon a great place to work.”

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