Two months ago, union leaders from Amazon’s warehouse in Staten Island went on an outreach mission to gain workers’ support for forming their first ever US Labor Union. They visited the White House and testified before Congress as they worked tirelessly towards this goal – all while rallying alongside progressive political figures.
As the president of Amazon’s workers’ union, Chris Smalls has been recognized for his leadership and popularity in both labor movements as well as fashion.
Tensions between workers and their employer remain high as several employee-organizers got fired in recent weeks. The move by Amazon has sparked heated responses from the group.
Sensing the collective unrest among their workers, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand urged Amazon CEO Andy Jassy to acknowledge union rather than fight it.
The company has been trying to get the election results thrown out following more than two dozen objects that concerned alleged behavior by union leads and regional office National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The agency is also denying Amazon’s charges.
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The Amazon Labor Union will be demonstrating in Phoenix on Monday, after disagreeing with their employer over closing the hearing to the public, which the federal labor agency ruled against.
The battle to organize the Staten Island warehouse is not over despite organizers’ surprise victory at this facility. Amazon likely will turn its attention elsewhere and try again in other warehouses across America where workers have yet to be successful with unionizing.
Amazon has opposed the formation of unions for its workers. CEO Andy Jassy believes that since Amazon’s employees are “better off without a union,” saying it would be best if they communicated directly with him.
The employer accused the NLRB of facilitating an unfair victory for unions, accusing the union of bullying employees and intimidating them into joining a grassroots movement.
The attorney for the union fired back, calling these objections “racist and absurd.”
“These objections are insulting to the workers of JFK8 who survived the pandemic and defeated a trillion-dollar company just to see Amazon use their highly-paid lawyers to silence the voices of thousands of their workers,” said union president Chris Smalls.
The Twitter account for the union erupted after Amazon fired one of its worker-organizers.
Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel explained that the employee’s violent workplace behavior was why they were fired.
The news that Amazon has avoided unionization for so long is not surprising, according to one expert. Director of Labor Education Research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations Kate Bronfenbrenner said the company’s actions were “nothing new.”
“They’re going to fight to stay non-union for a very long time,” she added. “Until the cost of being non-union becomes greater than the cost of being union, and that’s going to take having their customers, and their investors put a great deal of pressure on them.”
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