One month after a new union started by Amazon warehouse workers won the first U.S. election in the company’s history, workers at a nearby Amazon facility voted against uniting with the same grassroots organization.
Employees at an Amazon package selection center, known as LDJ5, voted 618 to 380 against the merger with the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), a union founded last year by Amazon employee Chris Smalls and several colleagues. A victory in LDJ5 would give the union the right to enter into a joint bargaining agreement with Amazon at two main warehouses that would play a separate but complementary role in serving Amazon customers in the critical New York City metropolitan area. This combination could have given the organizers more advantage in negotiating a deal with Amazon, but that advantage now seems to be gone.
“We are delighted that our team at LDJ5 has been able to hear their voices,” Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work directly together as we strive to do better every day for our employees.”
On Twitter, the founder of ALU Dr. Chris Smalls“Despite today’s results, I am proud of LDJ5’s staff / organizers. [T]Hey there was a tough challenge after our win at JFK8. “
He added that his union “will continue to be organized and you should all.”
The loss comes a month after the historic election at a larger nearby Amazon perfection center called JFK8. There, the union received 2,654 votes, with 2,131 people voting against the organization. (Amazon perfection center staff, such as JFK8 picks, stoves, and pack customer products 300 to 400 items per hour, while sort center staff, such as LDJ5, typically sort pre-packaged orders by geographic destination.) Arguing that the union and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which oversaw the election, acted improperly. The NLRB has set a May 23 hearing to discuss Amazon’s objections.
Separately, Amazon is still struggling with a concerted effort by a separate union, retail, wholesale and department store unions in Bessemer, Alabama. Votes were counted for re-election at the Alabama Warehouse, called BHM1, in late March, when an NLRB official ruled that Amazon had illegally interfered in the first election to the facility in 2021. The union is currently trailing by more than 100 votes in Bessemer, but the results are still in the air as Amazon and Union jointly contested more than 400 additional ballots. They need to be verified at future hearings before final results can be confirmed in the coming months – and potential calculations should be made. In the first reversed Besmer vote in 2021, workers overwhelmingly voted for Amazon.
Winning or losing the LDJ5 will be an uphill battle for the ALU, even if the original JFK8 election is won. Large anti-union employers like Amazon usually try to suspend contract negotiations in the hope that organizers or employees will lose interest, especially in workplaces like Amazon warehouses where the annual turnover rate exceeds 100 percent. If one year has elapsed since the victory in the final union election without any collective bargaining agreement, a disassociation vote may have taken place.
“Getting the first contract within a reasonable time will be a big challenge, and it will take a lot of work to organize the workers, keep fighting and perhaps win that first contract,” said Rebecca Givan, a professor of labor at Rutgers University.
This loss could make the JFK8 deal more difficult to achieve.
Depending on your perspective, the rate at LDJ5 may indicate that ALU only won JFK8 because staff-leaders personally knew many of the building’s collaborators and would struggle to organize any other Amazon warehouses. Amazon operates more than 800 warehouses of various sizes across the United States. Some may also see the defeat as a sign that the ALU, with a sliver of wealth in the large established unions, tried to bite it more than chew it.
On the other hand, this week’s loss could be interpreted as a general revelation that the deck has been stacked too much against the ALU. The LDJ5 pick-up center has a larger percentage of part-time staff than JFK8 – which makes it generally harder to organize – and Amazon has spent aggressively to ensure that it does not end up in the wrong direction in the second consecutive union election. (Amazon spent more than $ 4 million on anti-union consultants alone in 2021.) The role of the Amazon selection center also has a reputation among employees for being less stressful than some of the major roles in a larger fulfillment center like JFK8.
Givan, a professor at Rutgers, said he disagreed with those who could call the first win a fluke in terms of second-place finish.
“Those who do not have a specific understanding of the broken NLRB process feel that the outcome of an election is the result of a free and fair election where workers just say they want to form a union and there is no unwanted influence or pressure,” Givan said. “In fact, it is … a successful intimidation of the anti-union campaign.”
On Union Drive at the larger JFK8 facility, the union said it wants to represent the union at all disciplinary meetings to allow Amazon leadership a big increase per hour, longer breaks for employees, and to prevent unfair shots that could already increase higher employee turnover. At the small LDJ5 pick-up center, organizers said one of the main motivations for the union was to provide enough hours to meet the reluctance of Amazon’s reluctant workers.
A union organizer and LDJ5 activist recently told the New York Times that working hours are “not based on what workers want or need.” “It’s based on what Amazon thinks is the most efficient in terms of staff costs.”
Yet, even before the defeat at LDJ5 or the victory at JFK8, the pressure of the first epidemic-era Union Drive in Bessemer, Alabama, Warehouse seemed to force Jeff Bezos to reconsider the company’s workforce. . In his final shareholder letter as CEO in 2021, he said his company needed to “do better for our employees.” In the same letter, Bezos announced a new mission for his company: “The world’s best employer and the world’s safest place to work.”
Jeff Bezos then won JFK8 despite having a long history of union-busting with Amazon in the 28 years since the company was founded as an online bookseller in 1994. But on Monday, the latest turning point in the civil labor war went to Amazon.
Updated, May 2, 3:40 pm ET: The story has been updated to include statements from Amazon and ALU organizer Chris Smalls.