In an unprecedented move, workers at four Amazon warehouses on Staten Island dropped their request for a union vote, throwing doubt on the future of a recruiting drive that could have resulted in the company’s second union ballot in less than a year.
Following a request by the organisation on Friday to withdraw its petition for an election, the National Labor Relations Board granted their request.
Organizer Christian Smalls, a former Amazon employee who is organising the initiative, claimed the board of directors had informed his organisation that it required more signatures to indicate that a sufficient number of employees were interested in conducting a vote. He said that the organisation intended to resubmit its application as soon as it had additional employees’ signatures.
The campaign for unionisation underscored the mounting labour issues that Amazon and other major employers are facing as a result of the epidemic, which has given employees a stronger hand than they have had in decades. However, the defeat suffered by labour activists on Staten Island demonstrates how tough it remains to establish a union at the country’s largest corporations, notably Amazon. The corporation touts its average beginning salary of $18 an hour and has fiercely resisted previous initiatives to raise wages via posters in its buildings and obligatory meetings with employees, among other means.
It is not a recognised labour organisation that is organising Mr. Smalls’s endeavour; instead, it is a collection of current and former Amazon employees who are working to create an independent organisation called the Amazon Labor Union. The organisation spent six months gathering signatures from employees who wanted to be able to vote on the issue, and they finally presented those signatures to the labour board earlier this month.
The board decided that the signatures represented at least 30 percent of the employees in the proposed bargaining unit, which was the minimum necessary under the collective bargaining agreement. The judgement paved the way for a general election to be held in the spring of 2019.
In most cases, labour experts say, labour unions submit with considerably more signatures than the 30 percent criterion since support for the union has typically declined during a political campaign. Since the beginning of the year, Amazon has said that it does not think the barrier has been achieved, claiming that more individuals worked at the premises than the Amazon Labor Union had first stated. However, Amazon said in records given to the labour board that the facilities employed more than 9,600 people, despite the fact that the organisers applied to represent 5,500 people.
The Amazon Labor Union has continued to recruit new members, and last week a banner advertising “Free Weed and Food From A.L.U.” was posted outside a bus stop near the warehouses beside a tent that the union had set up. The petition was originally approved by the labour board, and Mr. Smalls claimed he sent 400 extra signatures to the agency after learning that the agency had concluded that he needed even more.
The CEO also said that Amazon had given payroll data to the Labor Board, suggesting that the business felt that half of the workers who had signed cards to join the union were no longer employed by Amazon. Ms. Nantel refuses to provide any more information.
This year’s organising efforts have concentrated on a vast Staten Island warehouse known as JFK8, which serves as Amazon’s primary conduit to New York City. It has a workforce of more than 5,000 workers. Later, the organisers expanded their efforts to include three smaller Amazon operations in the same industrial park, bringing the total number of Amazon facilities to four.
Amazon was victorious in an election for a union at its warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, in April, averting the most serious union threat the firm has ever faced in its history. Visits from Senator Bernie Sanders and a subtle gesture of support from Vice President Joe Biden were made in support of the workers’ cause. As a consequence of some of Amazon’s anti-union tactics, a labour board commissioner recommended that the election results be thrown out and a new election be held, a recommendation that Amazon has announced it would challenge.
In a recent interview, Brian Olsavsky, the business’s chief financial officer, said that the most significant limitation on its operations was not the supply chain or warehouse space, but rather the company’s ability to acquire and retain enough employees as the company grows.
As a result of the tight labour market, Amazon has hiked pay and provided incentives to recruit employees, and Mr. Olsavsky warned investors that labour issues would cost the business $4 billion in the Christmas quarter alone.