Amazon workers in a warehouse in New York have voted in favour of forming a trade union for the first time in the United States.
In the New York borough of Staten Island, Amazon employees made history last week: for the first time in the company’s history, they succeeded in forming a trade union. With 2,654 votes in favour and 2,131 votes against, the establishment of Amazon Labor Union is a fact. This is a completely new and independent trade union that the employees themselves have started.
Previous attempts to form a union have failed, partly due to intervention by Amazon itself. Last year, a similar initiative by the staff at an Alabama depot ended with defeat for the initiators. Afterwards, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) gave them a second chance, because it turned out that Amazon put a lot of pressure on employees to vote against it.
Since then, the second largest employer in the US has reached a settlement with the NLRB, which was intended to make it somewhat easier to join a union. The first results can now be seen in New York, and possibly soon in Alabama: a second vote was held there last week. According to the first results, the union lost by a narrow margin there, but there will still be a hearing on hundreds of disputed ballots.
New climate in the US
It is mainly younger employees who are taking the lead in union action, The Guardian writes after an interview with Seth Goldstein, a pro bono lawyer who represented Amazon Labor Union in Staten Island during the election process. More and more unions and workers’ protests are popping up all over the US. The corona pandemic caused scarcity in the labour market and thus a shift in power, and President Joe Biden also wants to create a more favourable climate for labour organisation.
Amazon workers are demanding better working conditions, paid leave for injured workers, longer breaks and higher wages. Amazon itself, however, responds that unions “are not the best answer” for workers and that the company prefers to work directly with its teams. The e-commerce player recently launched several new initiatives to get employees to study and increased wages.