First union victory against Amazon

Warehouse workers at an American e-commerce giant in New York voted to allow a union to represent them when dealing with the e-commerce giant’s management.

The American labor movement, on the defensive for decades, is regaining hope. Employees at an Amazon warehouse in New York have finally voted to allow a union to represent them against the e-commerce giant’s management. To date, no union represents the million people who work in the United States for Amazon, the second-largest private employer in the country, behind Walmart.

The victory of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) by 2,654 votes against 2,131 certainly only applies to the employees of the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island. Nevertheless, it represents an important symbolic success. Amazon has been working for years to discourage its employees from unionizing. Amazon’s sweeping anti-union campaigns have been in the news for months.

Another Amazon site, also on Staten Island, called LDJ5, which employs 1,500 people, is in turn due to decide on ALU’s representativeness on April 25. Meanwhile, in Bessemer, Alabama, the suspense continues for Amazon. After the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) overturned a tough defeat last year by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union (RWDSU), a new consultation has been held: the union that represents employees in the retail, got just 875 votes against. 993. However, the count is much tighter than last year. Now 416 ballots are disputed, prolonging the uncertainty.

The Biden administration encourages union recruiting, in its eyes a source of rebalancing power in favor of the middle classes. Only 10.3% of American employees are unionized today, a proportion that is half what it was in 1983. In the private sector, unionization is even lower, at 6.1%.

The obligation to list in a union prohibited in 28 States

Efforts by the United Auto Workers to convince employees of foreign auto giants with multiple US factories, such as Toyota or Volkswagen, have been in vain. Americans are reluctant to pay high monthly fees to give a single organization a monopoly on negotiating their employment contract. In addition, 28 states have banned the closed-work practice of making union dues payable as a condition of employment. Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, which depend on unions to finance their campaigns, seek to invalidate these so-called “Right to Work” laws.

The extraordinary labor shortage that is ravaging the United States as we emerge from the pandemic offers a historic opportunity for unions to turn the corner. In February, for example, there were 1.8 vacancies per job seeker.

Dozens of Amazon sites will be the scene of union elections in the coming months. Other iconic companies are going through the same scenario. A majority of employees at ten Starbucks cafes, for example, in several US states, have voted in recent months to be represented by Workers United. This move is viewed skeptically by many labor market specialists because it is rare for young Starbucks baristas to make a career out of their work.

Amazon’s warehouse unionization may also come as a surprise because the Seattle firm is among the most generous in terms of pay and benefits, such as health insurance and tuition assistance. On the other hand, Staten Island organizers in Bessemer insist on the role a union can play in improving working conditions, from preventing accidents to developing production rates.

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