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Amazon workers in US vote to unionize

April 1, 2022

New York warehouse workers have voted in favor of establishing Amazon's first union in the United States. Although not yet final, the win looks likely to encourage labor activists across the country.

Amazon JFK8 distribution center union organizer Jason Anthony speaks to media
Friday marks the first time that Amazon workers in the US have voted to establish a unionImage: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP Photo/picture alliance

Employees of the US online retail giant Amazon voted on Friday to unionize a fulfillment center in New York City, marking the first US-based labor union in the company's history.

The workers at the warehouse on Staten Island voted 55% in favor of forming the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), according to a count by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Previous attempts to unionize employees had been thwarted despite efforts by labor activists who campaigned against dangerous working conditions at Amazon warehouses.

Staten Island Amazon workers celebrate after getting the voting results to unionize
Labor activism has been growing in the US in recent yearsImage: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP Photo/picture alliance

Historic moment

Federal officials said that the count would only be verified once objections from each side were processed.

But the vote represents a victory for the independent unionizing group that faced the second-biggest private employer in the US without the backing of any larger union.

The ALU celebrated the vote win on social media, calling themselves the "first Amazon union in US history!"

"We're disappointed with the outcome of the election in Staten Island because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees," Amazon said following the result.

A similar attempt at another Amazon warehouse last year resulted in workers' siding with the company at a two-to-one ratio.

Vote met with celebration

The efforts to unionize the Staten Island site were led by union organizer and former Amazon employee Christian Smalls. He was greeted by cheers and the popping of champagne as he and other officials left the NLRB offices after the count came in.

Staten Island Amazon center union organizer Chris Smalls celebrates with champagne
Chris Smalls was met with celebration after winning the voteImage: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP Photo/picture alliance

"I'm excited that we're making history," Amazon employee Tristan Dutchin told The Associated Press. "We're about to unionize a multibillion-, trillion-dollar company. This will be a fantastic time for workers to be surrounded in a better, safer working environment."

The Biden administration also expressed support for the move with White House press secretary Jen Psaki saying that "The president was glad to see workers ensure their voices are heard with respect to important workplace decisions."

Presiden Joe Biden "believes firmly that every worker in every state must have a free and fair choice to join a union and the right to bargain collectively with their employer," she added.

David Cornfield, a labor expert and sociology professor at Vanderbilt University, told Reuters that the successful vote is a "momentous victory for working people who are doing homegrown union organizing."

He said the victory in New York would encourage others seeking to unionize workplaces across the US. "There's already a wave [of activism] occurring," he said, "and this will encourage more of that."

ab/nm (Reuters, AP)