June 13, 2024

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Amazon workers union, with renewed momentum, faces the next test

Amazon workers union, with renewed momentum, faces the next test

The Amazon Workers Union has built the momentum that led to this week’s elections at a warehouse of 800 people near Albany, New York

federal labor official recently endorsed guild electoral victory at a Staten Island warehouse in April, which Amazon defied, while workers’ disappointment over wages and safety Create an opportunity to add supporters and pressure the company to bargain.

But the union faces questions about whether it can translate these opportunities into lasting gains. For several months after winning the 8,000-person warehouse on Staten Island, the Federation seemed to be out of its depths. Almost collapsed under the crush of international media attention and outvote At a second warehouse on Staten Island in May.

Sometimes I neglected to organize within the original repository known as JFK8, where the turnover rate is high It means that the union must be doing constant communication just to maintain support – not to mention expand. Christian Smalls, union president and former employee of JFK8, looked distracted as he traveled extensively. There was a burnout and infighting In the group, many core members have left or have been expelled.

“It was not clear what goal we should be working towards,” said Cassio Mendoza, a JFK8 worker and director of communications for the union, referring to the sometimes competing priorities of lobbying to hold and organize more warehouses.

The elections near Albany, scheduled to be spread out over four days between Wednesday and Monday in Castleton-on-Hudson, can help determine whether past problems are normal growing pains or a sign of deeper dysfunction.

Amazon has cast doubt on the Amazon workers’ union experience and says it does not believe the union represents workers’ opinions. The company said it would invest $1 billion over the next year to permanently raise hourly wages.

Among the biggest transfers the federation has made in recent months has been facing Amazon coup attempt Its victory, which exhausted time and resources, was also testified by supporters and leaders in 24-day working hearings beginning in mid-June. The union has delayed plans to train more workers as organisers. National organizing call has been suspended.

Just before Labor Day, the National Labor Relations Board official running the hearings recommended rejecting Amazon’s challenge and certifying the union. The regional administrator still has to think about it.

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The result appears to strengthen the union within the Staten Island depot, although management responded by sending a letter to workers stating that the company intended to appeal. “We believe that a direct relationship with you is preferable,” the letter read.

At about the same time, the Federation began to refocus. It opened an office on Staten Island in late August, hired full-time employees and created a database to track worker support. “I feel like we’re in a better place than we’ve ever been,” said Mr. Mendoza.

The union brought in prominent labor organizers to lead regular personal training on how to push for a contract. She eventually made two calls in an effort to recruit and train leaders to campaign nationwide.

“Your building may be next, which is why we’re making this call,” Madeline Wesley, an employee at Amazon which is the lead organization of the Amazon workers’ union for Staten Island’s second warehouse, said in one call. Workers who indicated they were from facilities in Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio and Washington participated.

The union, which says it has earmarked about a fifth of its more than half a million dollars in budget for expansion, is already supporting other organizational campaigns, including one in Castleton-on-Hudson and one in the East Los Angeles warehouse. Angelis. Nanette Placencia, who described herself as a “football mom” and the lead organizer of the California facility, met Mr Smalls at a party In Hollywood and decided that the Amazon workers union “understood where we came from,” she recalled in an interview.

On Tuesday, the union petitioned for an election to represent workers at the Ms Placencia warehouse, according to the NLRB.

In late September, Amazon told workers it was increasing hourly wages to reflect local market conditions, and pledged to raise them by more than $1 at several warehouses. But at JFK8, where wages started at $18.25 an hour, the increase was between 25 cents and 75 cents an hour, depending on level and duration.

“It is not enough to buy groceries,” said Celia Camasca, a warehouse employee there. “It would have been better if they hadn’t said anything.”

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The union stressed the small increase in a barbecue outside the warehouse which had been planned by chance in the afternoon shortly after workers learned of it. “Check out Amazon’s 25-cent increase – we’re not holding back,” said Mr Smalls, the union’s president and event director.

Union officials circulated a petition calling on Amazon to come to the table and give workers on Staten Island an immediate wage raise in the cost of living. Brandon Wagner, a packaging worker who said he worked in the warehouse for about a month and was making $17 an hour earlier at Wendy’s, signed the petition while waiting in line for food because, he said, the workers were underpaid.

Paul Flaningan, an Amazon spokesperson, said the national median wage for most frontline jobs was more than $19 an hour and that the company offers “comprehensive benefits” for full-time employees, including day one health insurance, paid parental leave and 401 (k) Conformity.

The union still faces many obstacles. Amazon You can spend years The election result resumes in Staten Island, and the company continues to wield enormous power over JFK8 workers. After workers protested Amazon’s response to a fire at the site last week, the company suspended She said more than 60 of them were paid while she was investigating what happened. The union brought unfair charges related to the practice of work due to the suspension; Amazon said most workers have returned to work.

Voting near Albany presents the union with its most obvious immediate test.

In interviews outside the warehouse, which handles bulky items like lawn mowers and televisions, many workers cited safety concerns and said wages were too low due to the difficulty of the job. New workers earned a base wage of $15.70 an hour before an increase of $1.30 this month.

Some also complained that Amazon was too quick to punish workers for minor infractions.

David Burnett, who scans merchandise before boxing, said a misunderstanding of the ration recently led to his writing. He argued that the union could relieve such pressures.

“He’s someone who has your back,” said Mr. Burnett. “I have four kids, one is on the way. I can’t worry about losing my job at any moment.”

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Other employees said they opposed the union because they were satisfied with their salaries and benefits and did not see how the union could improve the situation.

“There is no need for that,” said Anthony Hogg, one of those workers. “We just got a bonus.”

According to government data, Albany is one of the most unionized metropolitan areas in the country, and many employees have expressed positive views about unions. But some said previous experience in union workplaces made them less willing to join elsewhere. Some also said they did not trust the Amazon union in particular.

“The ALU is new,” said Jacob Carpenter, another employee. “They are not giving us any information.”

The outcome of the elections is likely to shape perceptions of the union. Heather Goodall, the warehouse’s lead organizer, is a board member of the Amazon Workers Union, and union leaders such as Conor Spence, her treasurer, have visited the Albany area regularly. Mr. Smalls has also traveled there.

Ms. Goodall said she joined Amazon in February to help standardize the warehouse because she was worried about it Unusually high infection rates, among other things related to safety. The facility was evacuated after a cardboard compressor caught fire last week, two days after the JFK8 fire, which was similar.

“The timeline for fixing things is before something tragic happens,” said Ms. Goodall.

Amazon has been accused of running an aggressive anti-union campaign, including regular meetings with employees in which it questioned the credibility of the union and suggested that workers could end up in a worse situation if they joined unions.

Flaningan, the company’s spokesman, said that while injuries increased with Amazon training hundreds of thousands of new workers in 2021, the company believes its safety record has surpassed that of other retailers over a broader period.

“Like many other companies, we hold these meetings because it is important for everyone to understand the facts about union membership and the election process itself,” he said, adding that the decision to form unions is up to the employees.