In Staten Island, New York, the Amazon Union has prevailed, according to an initial vote count completed on Friday morning, which has yet to be certified by the National Labor Relations Board. With 2,654 votes cast in favor of unionizing to 2,131 against, the 67 votes that have been challenged for one reason or another won't change the result, NLRB employees said during a video broadcast of the count. Amazon released a statement, expressing its disappointment in the outcome and stating that it may file objections, citing irregularities reported by the National Retail Federation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In another union vote completed Thursday at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, — a rerun ordered after the NLRB found Amazon behaved unlawfully during a union effort last year — the 993 to 875 tally favored the e-commerce giant. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union said it will challenge 416 votes that could swing that outcome, and will file objections to what it calls Amazon's anti-union tactics.
Meanwhile, members of House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy seeking documents regarding Amazon’s labor practices during severe weather events, with a focus on a tornado last year at an Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois, where six people died. In an email, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said the company will respond to the letter in due course, and that it is focused "on supporting our employees and partners, the families who lost loved ones, the surrounding community, and all those affected by the tornadoes."
The apparent victory of the union organizing workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island is one of the most significant developments of what several labor experts have called the "new labor activism" in the United States.
"Winning Staten Island is a monumental labor victory," said John Logan, an expert in labor and anti-labor activities who teaches at the Lam Family College of Business at San Francisco State University. "It may be the most important victory in almost 100 years."
The Amazon Union, which organized workers in Staten Island, is an independent, grassroots effort unaffiliated with an established union. That, too, is part of a less conventional approach to labor activism, for example working the phone rather than the picket line, Logan said.
While the NLRB under the Biden administration has been clear about its intention to protect worker rights, and Amazon's proven ferocity in battling union efforts resulted in a new election, it's far from clear that the Bessemer organizers will succeed in overturning the recent vote or getting another chance, he said by phone.
Still, even if the union ultimately loses those challenges, its effort has been an important part of the wave of union activities seen at Amazon, Starbucks and elsewhere, according to Logan. As they embark on a series of challenges with no guarantees, union leaders in Bessemer said they also see it that way.
"This fight is the spark of the 21st century labor movement, and we know it will forever transform how Americans view unions in this country," RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said in an emailed statement. "This union election continues to show that the best way for working people to protect themselves and their families is to join together in a union."
The close vote in Bessemer and the Staten Island victory are poised to unleash a new wave of unionizing, including at Amazon, Logan said.
"The effect of not just Staten Island but also Bessemer, because it was such a close election, is to give other people a sort of confidence that Amazon is not unbeatable, and that trying to form a union at Amazon is not an exercise in futility," he said. "The most important thing about these campaigns is this sort of energy and enthusiasm and momentum they generate going forward."
Editor's note: This piece has been updated to include comments from an Amazon spokesperson.