June 29, 2022

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Amazon Workers on Staten Island Vote to Unionize

2 min read

It was a union organizing campaign that few expected to have a chance. A handful of employees at Amazon’s massive warehouse on Staten Island, operating without support from national labor organizations, took on one of the most powerful companies in the world.

And, somehow, they won.

Workers at the facility voted by a wide margin to form a union, according to results released on Friday, in one of the biggest victories for organized labor in a generation.

Employees cast 2,654 votes to be represented by Amazon Labor Union and 2,131 against, giving the union a win by more than 10 percentage points, according to the National Labor Relations Board. More than 8,300 workers at the warehouse, which is the only Amazon fulfillment center in New York City, were eligible to vote.

The win on Staten Island comes at a perilous moment for labor unions in the United States, which saw the portion of workers in unions drop last year to 10.3 percent, the lowest rate in decades, despite high demand for workers, pockets of successful labor activity and rising public approval.

Critics — including some labor officials — say that traditional unions haven’t spent enough money or shown enough imagination in organizing campaigns and that they have often bet on the wrong fights. Some point to tawdry corruption scandals.

The union victory at Amazon, the first at the company in the United States after years of worker activism there, offers an enormous opportunity to change that trajectory and build on recent wins. Many union leaders regard Amazon as an existential threat to labor standards because it touches so many industries and frequently dominates them.

But the win by a little-known, independent union with few ties to existing groups appears to raise as many questions for the labor movement as it answers: not least, whether there is something fundamentally broken with the traditional bureaucratic union model that can be solved only by replacing it with grass-roots organizations like the…

Karen Weise and Noam Scheiber

2022-04-01 23:39:42

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