Amazon workers: Loss in second warehouse won’t stop us
Amazon workers at the second Amazon warehouse where they lost their unionization vote vow to fight on. | Craig Ruttle/AP

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.—Losing the union recognition vote at the second, smaller Amazon warehouse which the independent Amazon Labor Union targeted won’t stop their organizing drive, its leaders say.

Indeed, they add, they’re planning for representing the 8,300 workers in the monster retailer’s JFK8 warehouse, where they won convincingly weeks before—and they will be hosting a national training call for workers at approximately 100 other Amazon warehouses who have contacted them about organizing at their facilities.

“Nothing changes. We organize! Do not be discouraged or sad. Be upset and talk to your coworkers,” ALU President Christopher Smalls tweeted.

The strong statements came after the National Labor Relations Board tally on May 2 showed the company, owned by one the nation’s three richest people, Jeff Bezos, beat the union 618-380, in votes from workers at the LDJ5 warehouse. Two ballots were void. None were challenged.

Though turnout was high, the number of workers who didn’t vote (633) exceeded the number of ballots the company got.

“Despite today’s outcome I’m proud of the worker/organizers of LDJ5,” Smalls’s follow-up tweet said. “They had a tougher challenge after our victory at JFK8. Our leads should be extremely proud to have given their coworkers a right to join a Union @amazonlabor will continue to organize and so should all of you.

“We still have 8,300 to get a contract for” at JFK8, Smalls declared. “Plenty of work to be done @amazonlabor.”

Fellow organizing member Justine Medina posted a long comment on the ALU facebook page. Medina emphasized the nationwide meetings.

“To all the Amazon workers around the country reaching out about organizing a union in your workplace, we are inspired by each and every one of you! You are heroes to the working class, and to your coworkers, even if they don’t yet realize it!” Medina wrote.

“If we have not been able to get back to you yet, you have our deepest apologies. As worker-organizers, we are all volunteers, giving our time before and after our Amazon shifts and on our days off.

“We have been inundated with support and messages from not just other Amazon workers around the U.S. and around the world, but also many various trade unionists, professors and teachers, grassroots and progressive organizations, and also media, all interested in talking to us.

“It’s very difficult to juggle it all while we are still attempting to build our internal organization, move forward with steward and bargaining committee elections at JFK8, force Amazon management to certify our election results, get back to Amazon workers across the country,” and organize the LDJ5 vote.

The organizing call will be to tell the other workers from coast to coast lessons ALU learned from its organizing drives on Staten Island.

“On this call, we will lay out the basics of getting started with your union drive, the requirements needed to get an NLRB election scheduled, what pushback and union-busting tactics to expect from the bosses–which we know will only intensify–how to build community support outside of Amazon, and more.

“For now, we are encouraging workers interested in unionizing to build workers commit-tees in your warehouses. Find three or four other very solid people who will be able to commit their time to be the leaders and be able to work together to make decisions as a collective.”

The committee should, ideally, include veteran workers at each warehouse “who are already organic leaders in the workplace. You’ll need people who are or have been PAs, and people who can pull in workers from all demographics–all ages, genders, races, nationalities, and ideologies –of the warehouse as you build.”

Medina also warned it would be a long haul. The organizing drive at JFK8 took 11 months of “days and nights,” around the clock, “inside and outside” and before and after shifts and on days off.

And potential organizers must research their labor law rights and prepare for Amazon retaliation. “The entire organizing committee being fired in one go would not be good for the labor movement,” Medina warned. But together, workers “can take on the villains like Jeff Bezos and other top bosses who put profits over people’s lives.”

The day before the LDJ5 vote was announced, Bezos and the other Amazon bosses gave the union and workers yet another weapon for their arsenal against the company. The bosses unilaterally eliminated the remaining extra paid days off workers received when testing positive for the coronavirus—despite the looming threat of two more virus variants heading for the U.S.

When the virus first hit, Amazon switched its sick leave policy from five days of unpaid leave to 14 days of paid leave, conforming to federal guidelines. After vaccination and protection spread and the federal Centers for Disease Control recommended reductions, Amazon cut that to seven paid days.

But on May 2, Reuters reported, citing a company memo it received, Amazon returned to its prior policy of five unpaid leave days for workers who fall ill with the virus. Amazon also said it would no longer report how many workers test positive at a particular warehouse, unless local law forced it to do so, and would no longer recommend its workers be vaccinated.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.