Amazon union victory under threat

A historic victory was won across the pond on the 1st of April, with Amazon workers in New York voting to form a union, the Amazon Labor Union.

12 Apr 2022| News

News of the victory quickly circulated worldwide as the Staten Island workers formed the first successful US organising effort in Amazon’s history.

The campaign to unionise was an uphill battle for the organisers against the second largest employer in the US, which is known for making every effort to stop workers from forming a union. Recently, Amazon disclosed that it spent about $4.2m last year on labour consultants, who organisers say the retailer routinely solicits to persuade workers not to unionise.

Seth Goldstein, a pro bono attorney who has represented the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) in Staten Island through their election proceedings, said:

“Worker engagement has been the key to this historic victory and can be attributed to increased nationwide union organising in digital, tech, non-profit and Starbucks. Gen Z and millennial workers are leading the charge in union organising.”

Support even came from the highest office when President Biden, speaking at North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) Legislative Conference in Washington, expressed his support for Amazon workers. After highlighting a government task force on worker organisation he launched a year ago “to make sure the choice to join a union belongs to workers alone,” Biden called out the online retail giant:

“And by the way, by the way, Amazon here we come. Watch. Watch,” he said during a speech.”

Amazon is now seeking to re-run the election; the global conglomerate has listed 25 objections to the vote, accusing the Amazon Labour Union of intimidating workers to vote for the union and for distributing cannabis to workers as an incentive to join up.

Eric Milner, a lawyer representing the ALU, said that distributing cannabis “is no different from distributing free T-shirts and it certainly did not act to interfere with the election”.

Last year, New York legalised recreational marijuana use for those over the age of 21. According to Milner, the union’s attorney, Amazon is grasping at straws.

Amazon had initially signalled that it planned to challenge the election results, based on a lawsuit filed in March by the NLRB, which sought to force Amazon to reinstate a fired employee who was involved in the union drive. At the time, Amazon said it was also objecting to the union’s conduct “before and during the polling,” which the company says interfered with the election.