Amazon labor union says ‘battle has just begun’ after defeat in Staten Island

Workers at an Amazon (AMZN) warehouse in Staten Island, NY, rejected the union bid on Monday, but it is far from the final battleground for the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) and the e-commerce giant.

This warehouse, LDJ5, is in Staten Island, as is JFK8, a separate Amazon warehouse that won a historic union nearly a month ago.

What happens next for the ALU is extremely important. Paul Clark, a labor expert at Pennsylvania State University, said the ALU needs to expand to survive over the long term, and is likely to struggle to find bargaining power as it organizes warehouses one by one.

“A warehouse on strike would not harm Amazon at all,” he told Yahoo Finance. “Amazon is really going to negotiate with the consortium, what they really want is if they can organize a critical mass of warehouses.”

According to Clark, a “critical mass” would require 50 warehouses across the US or a higher percentage of warehouses in a geographic area. Still, there are signs that additional warehouse workers may be interested in unionizing. Last month, ALU President Chris Smalls told Yahoo Finance that employees at more than 100 US-based Amazon facilities had contacted ALU to express interest in unionizing.

Pranama Vagolavate speaks to members of the media as she wears the letters “ALU” on her forehead at the entrance of the LDJ5 Amazon Sort Center on April 25, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Across America, unions have made a comeback, after falling out of favor for decades. Amazon has been a major company where these efforts have taken place, and the same is true of Starbucks (SBUX). in recent months, More than 200 Starbucks stores have sought the election, and so far at least 20 are in the union.

After LDJ5 election results, ALU tweeted: “Events will continue at this facility and outside. The battle has just begun.”

Meanwhile, Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in a statement, “We are delighted that our team at LDJ5 was able to make their voices heard.”

‘Real power in the workplace’

Some experts believe that popular opinion and the historical nature of ALU’s victory a month earlier will also empower union and warehouse workers for the time being. The National Labor Relations Board states that, as part of a fair bargaining process, unilateral changes are prohibited “during the term of the collective bargaining agreement, unless the union has explicitly and implicitly waived its right to bargain.” Hasn’t done or the change is too minor requires bargaining.”

“With election certification, even without a contract, the ALU will have some real power in the workplace because management can’t make any unilateral changes for a year,” said longtime union organizer and labor communicator Rand Wilson.

“But that power can also be turned against the Union,” Wilson said. “The management will say, well, we want to give everyone a 5% pay hike, but the union won’t agree to it. Then, it kind of goes back and forth that leaves the workers frustrated. All the ‘good stuff’ ‘ What could have happened is not happening because the Sangh is on the way. It becomes management’s cuddle to force a decertification vote.”

Notably, there is still another union election that has yet to be resolved, either in favor of Amazon or the union. The results of a union election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., are still to be determined, although the ALU is not involved in that election.

Bargaining will be relatively new territory for everyone involved. There will be a certain level of inexperience on both sides in these negotiations. According to Cornell University labor expert Harry Katz, Amazon has never negotiated with a US union, and the ALU has never gone through a bargaining process.

An Amazon Labor Union (ALU) organizer greets workers outside Amazon's LDJ5 sorting center, as workers begin voting to organize a second warehouse in the Staten Island borough of New York City on April 25, 2022.  Reuters/Brendan McDermid.

An Amazon Labor Union (ALU) organizer greets workers outside Amazon’s LDJ5 facility last week. Reuters/Brendan McDermid.

a long time coming

The conditions driving this union wave, such as massive wealth inequality, have been building up for decades, according to Jennifer Sherer, senior state policy coordinator for the Economic Policy Institute’s Worker Power Project. According to Stanford University, in 1965, CEOs made 24 times more than their average employee, while in 2009 CEOs made 185 times more.

“Broadly speaking, people are well aware that we have the worst income and wealth inequality in over a hundred years,” Sherer said. “People also generally know that the pandemic means huge profits for many companies where workers are unionizing. There is little to be achieved for the company’s image if they are willing to share the money with those employees. who have risked their health on the front lines by working unbearable hours.”

Wilson agrees, adding that the dialogue on economic inequality has made its way to Washington DC, raising the profile of the dialogue.

“The issue of economic inequality is not only at the top of the minds of workers, but now for many policy makers as well,” he said.

Looking ahead, and with these terms in mind, media relations are a major lever that the ALU can and should pull. Katz said the ALU would need to “supplement strike leverage with PR.”

“Companies like Amazon and Starbucks are particularly susceptible to public relations … because they are consumer-oriented,” Katz said. “They’re not producing the nuts-and-bolts that no one sees, their image matters, how the public sees them matters, and the union can use that as leverage.”

Eli Garfinkel is a senior technical reporter at Yahoo Finance. find him on twitter @agarfinks,

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