Labor Movement / Trade Unions

NY Amazon Workers Protest Life-Threatening Job Conditions

The following is an Amazon Labor Union (ALU) press release about an important job action by workers at JFK8, Amazon’s giant warehouse in Staten Island, New York.

The ALU won a landmark union representation election at JFK8 on April 1, 2022 (see Amazon Labor Union Scores Major Victory in NY). Amazon has refused to recognize the union victory. A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing officer recommended last month the dismissal of Amazon’s objections to the vote, but the NLRB has yet to certify the union election.

The Washington Post reported Amazon quickly suspended — with pay —  50 workers involved in the job action, while the retail giant “investigates.” 

Seth Goldstein, a labor attorney for the Amazon Labor Union, called the suspensions of the Staten Island workers “a violation of workers’ rights to join in a collective action about the terms and conditions of their employment.”

“The workers didn’t feel safe going back to work. They were engaging in rights that have been protected for 85 years under the National Labor Relations Act,” Goldstein said.

“It’s a shame that due to Amazon’s lack of safety protocols, workers had to take a stand, because they were not feeling as though the company took [the fire] as seriously as they should have,” Christian Smalls, president of Amazon Labor Union told the Post. Amazon fired Smalls from the Staten Island facility, after he led a walkout during the height of the Covid outbreak in 2020.

The Post article also noted, “The mass suspension took place less than 10 days before warehouse workers at a separate Amazon warehouse near Albany, New York, are slated to vote to become the second Amazon workforce to join Amazon Labor Union.”

In this TikTok video, JFK8 workers can be seen demanding to be sent home with pay after fire breaks out releasing toxic fumes into the warehouse.

Hundreds of workers at JFK8 protest on the job during the night shift on October 3, 2022, chanting “With Pay, Send Us Home!” The spontaneous protest erupted after fire broke out in the trash compactor releasing toxic fumes into the warehouse. (Photo: Screenshot from TikTok video)



October 4th, 2022

On Monday, October 3rd, at approximately 8:15PM, Night Shift Workers protested against abnormally dangerous working conditions by engaging in spontaneous, legally-protected collective action over health and safety concerns related to a fire in the trash compactor inside of the JFK8 warehouse. Workers complained of inhaling toxic fumes as they were told by Managers to get back to work. In perhaps the largest collective action ever taken by Amazon Workers, over 650 employees participated in the work stoppage which lasted almost three hours. Workers participating in the action expressed three basic grievances that Amazon must address:

1. Lack of Concern for Workers’ Lives – A major fire occurred earlier that day in the trash compactor of JFK8. Amazon refused to send Workers home with pay despite dangerous fumes pervading the warehouse. Workers distrust Amazon’s willingness to put people over profits after a recent string of workplace-related deaths across Amazon warehouses in the neighboring state of New Jersey.

2. Insulting “Raises” – In the past week, Amazon announced 25 cent raises for its long term Workers after a year-long “review process.” With inflation at 9.1%, this “raise” is effectively a pay cut of over $1.85/hour. Workers are disgusted with the announced plan.

3. Refusal to Recognize ALU – JFK8 Workers won our union election on April 1st, 2022 by over 500 votes. It’s been over six months since that historic day and Amazon continues to refuse to recognize our union. The NLRB hearing officer threw out all 25 of Amazon’s “objections” to our election and yet Andy Jassy continues to stall. Workers are fed up and are demanding immediate bargaining over pay and working conditions.

Hundreds of workers bravely marched from the break room into the Manager’s office to make their demands clear. From there, some Workers walked out of JFK8 in disgust while others continued to occupy the break room waiting for a response from Amazon. The ALU says Rights Over Rates. We have the right to our lives, the right to real raises, and the right to union recognition.

Contact: Cassio Mendoza, Communications Director

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