Soon a union at Amazon? Tension continues in the United States

Voting to unionize two US Amazon warehouses started Thursday. It would be a first in the United States for the e-commerce giant if it wins “yes” on either site.

Bad start in Alabama, still possible in New York: The counting of votes on unionization in two American warehouses of Amazon started Thursday, but the final results are not yet known. If it wins “yes” in either of the two logistics sites, it would be a first in the United States for the e-commerce giant since the company’s founding in 1994.

In Staten Island, a New York neighborhood where JFK8 warehouse workers voted in person, the “yes” vote led Thursday night by 1,518 votes out of 1,154 for the “no.” The count will be “completed tomorrow,” an official said.

The simple fact that a vote has taken place “is already historic,” Christian Smalls, chairman of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), the small group of current and former Amazon employees who took several months to get the signatures of at least 30 people. % of warehouse employees to be able to organize a vote. He quickly left the building between two rounds of voting, saying he was “not surprised” that the “yes” has prevailed for now.

Towards defeat in Alabama

In Bessemer, Alabama, on the other hand, the national distribution association that employees wanted to join seemed poised for a possible second disputed defeat, after the one a year ago, which took place at the end of a very media campaign that followed until the top of the state. On Thursday evening, the “no” led by 993 votes to 875 “yes”, but 416 so-called “controversial” votes remained, which will determine the outcome. A hearing should decide in the coming weeks whether these bulletins should be opened and taken into account or not. Then there may be other remedies.

This second vote was ordered by the United States Labor Rights Agency (NLRB), which said Amazon had broken the rules during the first attempt last year in Bessemer. Indeed, the RWDSU union had accused the group of “harassment and interference”, and the NLRB had ruled that several objections were admissible.

Whatever happens, Stuart Appelbaum, the president of RWDSU, was pleased that Bessemer had launched a “movement” last year, referring to other Amazon warehouses, including Staten Island, as well as Starbucks. The employees of two of these cafes voted in December to form a union, a first at stores directly managed by the chain in the United States. And employees of more than 150 Starbucks have now requested that a vote be held.

Jeff Bezos must “come back to Earth”

Amazon, one of the largest employers in the United States and a multinational corporation that made more than $30 billion in 2021, has so far fend off attempts by workers to consolidate in the country. But the efforts are increasing. Across the street from the JFK8 warehouse, some 1,500 employees of the LDJ5 sorting center are being called upon to vote for or against the establishment of another ALU branch from April 25 to 29.

In both Bessemer and Staten Island, workers were summoned by their superiors to a number of mandatory meetings in the run-up to the vote to explain the disadvantages of a union. Officially, the company says it respects the rights of its employees to join a union, but prefers to have a direct relationship with them. She did not immediately respond to a request from AFP.

“It’s time for Jeff Bezos to come down to Earth and address the very real issues his workers face every day in his warehouses across the country,” Stuart Appelbaum said at a news conference. Thursday, referring to the Amazon founder’s space adventures. He reiterated that the Seattle group was willing to use its “unlimited resources to prevent unionization at all costs”. In total, 2,284 people of the 6,153 eligible employees voted for this second postal ballot, a lower turnout than a year ago.

Large number of layoffs

But “Amazon has a 150% annual employee turnover rate,” said Stuart Appelbaum, citing a figure from a New York Times survey. “Thousands of people who worked for Amazon in January and were eligible to vote left or were fired in March,” he continued on the low turnout. “They are tired of working in dangerous conditions. Thousands of Amazon employees are voting to resign.”

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