Nearly a year has passed since workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York voted to start the company’s first-ever labor union in the US, a historic labor win that garnered global attention. The battle, however, is far from over.
The election’s outcome is something Amazon is challenging in court.
Efforts to organize drives for workers at other warehouses, like the one across the street, have yet to be successful.
The warehouse workers’ union has yet to begin contract negotiations with the corporation, and even when they do, they may take many years.
Chris Smalls, an ex-employee of Amazon who founded the union after the firm fired him during the pandemic, is unfazed by the slow pace of change.
“We know we’re dealing with a trillion dollar organization that is going to spend X amount of dollars to attempt to prohibit a union from taking place, so the timing is just about what we expected,” he adds.
The Amazon Labor Union at JFK8, a warehouse on Staten Island that employs almost 8,000 workers, was ultimately recognized as a winner earlier last month.
Amazon has stated that it will be appealing the election outcome because it believes that regulators improperly discriminated against the corporation. The deadline that had been looming was pushed back by two weeks this week.
A spokesperson for the company, Kelly Nantel, stated, “We felt it was unlikely that the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) regional office would decide against itself, and intend to appeal.”
To paraphrase our original statement: “We don’t believe this election process was fair, genuine, or representative of the majority of what our team wants.”
The current situation reflects the unanswered problems that have been plaguing the American labor movement for some time.
Union membership has been on the decline for decades but has recently seen an upsurge due to increased organizing efforts. In 2018, 10.1% of workers were union members, down from 10.3% the year before.
In fact, it’s almost half of what it was when the government first began keeping track of the numbers in 1983, making it the lowest rate ever recorded.
There are, however, indications that the labor organizers are making headway.
According to a Gallup poll taken in 2022, union support among working Americans has reached 70%, the greatest level since 1965.
The National Labor Relations Board reported that the number of petitions from workers seeking to form unions at their companies increased by 53% in the year leading up to October, reaching over 2,510.
In addition, private sector union membership climbed by about 200,000 in 2017 compared to 2016; this is the first increase in nearly a decade, and it was driven by growth in the transportation and warehousing industries.
However, those increases lagged behind the significant workforce expansion witnessed last year.
Former NLRB field attorney and current director of Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations Buffalo Co-Lab Cathy Creighton thinks that because of the preponderance of employer rights in US law, the action is unlikely to provide lasting benefits for the labor movement.
She claims that there is no mechanism in the legislation that would require employers to reach an agreement with employees.
I’m not denying that some sort of shift is occurring; the question is, how sustainable is it? her words
Unless the American people realize what is happening, realize the barrier, and petition their elected officials to modify the law, “Corporate America is fighting back hard and the government is not on the worker’s side at this point.”
She claims that employers are able to derail labor movements by simply playing out the clock.
Nearly three years have passed since Mr. Smalls last worked for Amazon, and in that time, he has risen to celebrity status, leading to claims that he has lost touch with reality in the workplace. Another top union official at Amazon, Derrick Palmer, has been on administrative leave since late last year as the firm investigates a worker complaint.
Mr. Smalls, citing recent union campaigns in Minnesota and California, disproves the notion that Amazon can afford to play the waiting game and see whether it pays off. During his time in the UK this week, he will see employees organizing their first strike.
“They intend to drag things out as long as possible, but we have our own plans to keep the pressure on. It’s because of that that we’re in this situation “It’s what he says, after all.
He continues, “We don’t want nothing else but a contract and we’re not going to stop organizing or fighting until we have it.” “Let’s get down to business and negotiate if the company is legit.”