June 21, 2022 — Three days ago, World-Outlook published “Amazon Seeks to Prevent Certification of Union at NY Warehouse.” The article reported on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing considering Amazon’s objections to certifying the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) as the choice of workers at JFK8, the company’s 8,000-strong warehouse in Staten Island, New York. The ALU won a landmark victory in a union representation election there on April 1. Amazon’s goal is to overturn the election results. If that is not possible, the corporate giant hopes to delay the NLRB’s final certification of the ALU as the bargaining agent for JFK8 workers, thus weakening ALU’s efforts to win a decent contract there. The NLRB’s Region 29 Brooklyn office, which oversaw the election, ruled the ALU the winner. The federal labor board, however, and the entire process of “mediation” it supervises, has been no friend of labor since the U.S. government established the agency over 85 years ago.
PHOENIX, Arizona, June 13, 2022 — The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) opened a hearing here today on Amazon’s objections to the landmark victory of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) at JFK8, the company’s giant fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York. The ALU — a newly formed union led by young workers at the 8,000-employee facility — won a representation election on April 1. Amazon has challenged the outcome of the vote. Amazon’s lawyers said they plan to call “dozens and dozens” of witnesses and expect the hearing to go on for “the next several weeks.” In doing so, Amazon’s attorneys revealed the company’s strategy of trying to prolong the proceeding’s duration as long as possible. At this point, it is up in the air when the hearing may end.
Public hearings on the January 6, 2021, ultra-rightist mob attack on the U.S. Congress are now underway. The facts presented at these hearings offer a reminder that the effort Donald Trump led to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election was far outside the previous norms of U.S. bourgeois politics. For this reason, World-Outlook is republishing the second part of its inaugural article posted that fateful January. That analysis largely stands up to the test of time. It outlines the stakes for working people in those events. The issues involved go well beyond establishing historical accuracy. It is still likely that Trump will run again for president in 2024. His unfounded and conspiracy-laden claim that the 2020 election was “stolen” still holds sway among the base of the Republican Party and Republican office holders at the federal, state, and local levels. Trump remains the most authoritative leader of the GOP. What is important to working people is what unfolded after the 2020 election. It begins with recognizing the “big lie” of the “stolen election” and the lengths to which its proponents were willing to go to enforce it.
Public hearings on the January 6, 2021, ultra-rightist mob attack on the U.S. Congress are now underway. The facts presented at the hearings offer a reminder that the effort Donald Trump led to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election was far outside the previous norms of U.S. politics.For this reason, we are republishing World-Outlook‘s inaugural article we ran that fateful January. It offers an analysis that largely stands up to the test of time. It outlines the stakes for working people in those events. The issue goes way beyond establishing historic accuracy. It is still likely that Trump will run again for president in 2024. His unfounded and conspiracy-laden claim that the 2020 election was “stolen” still holds a large sway in the base of the Republican Party and among Republican office holders at the federal, state, and local levels. Trump remains the most authoritative leader of the GOP. Over the last year and a half, this much has become clear: Trump has made effective use of the technique of the “big lie” in continuing to insist the 2020 election was “stolen” from him. Many conservative politicians and business executives have accepted and promoted it. Many others are unwilling to challenge it publicly. This suggests that such politicians and pundits may be open to Trump’s course — using cunning and force to change an election outcome, tossing the “rule of law” by the wayside — as a possible solution to late capitalism’s crises that are getting worse under the Biden administration.
This is a statement by Amazon Labor Union (ALU) organizer Tristan “Lion” Dutchin, who was fired by Amazon on May 7, 2022. Dutchin worked at JFK8, the company’s giant fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, where the ALU won a landmark union representation election on April 1. As part of his efforts to help secure this historic victory, Dutchin, who is also an artist, has written and performed a number of pro-union songs. Three days earlier, on May 4, Amazon fired another ALU organizer, Mat Cusick, who worked at DYY6, the company’s delivery station in its Staten Island complex. We also publish here the link to a May 11 Democracy Now interview with both workers, who explain the retaliatory character of Amazon’s actions.
This is a Reporters’ Notebook. It is based on conversations World-Outlook reporter Mark Satinoff held with Amazon Labor Union (ALU) members on April 1, 2022, outside the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Brooklyn, New York. Satinoff interviewed the Amazon workers in the hours leading up to the announcement of ALU’s monumental victory in the union election at JFK8 — the company’s giant fulfillment center in the New York City area, a key market for Amazon. The interviews point to how Amazon workers organized themselves to make this victory possible. They also outline the union’s next steps ahead, detailing how these workers plan to carry out the ALU pledge in the union’s recent newsletter, which says: “With this first historic victory in the record books, we now turn our attention to the election campaign at LDJ5, the bargaining process for the unionized workers at JFK8, and our nationwide organizing and training campaign launching soon. If you work at Amazon, anywhere in the country, and you want to unionize your workplace, get in touch. We are here to support and empower our coworkers everywhere. When we unite together, we win. Hasta la victoria siempre.” — ALU Newsletter #16
BROOKLYN, NY, April 1, 2022—Workers at JFK8, Amazon’s giant warehouse on Staten Island, voted by a large margin for representation by the Amazon Labor Union. It is the most significant union organizing victory in the United States in decades—a milestone for the labor movement. According to the NLRB, 2,654 workers voted for representation by the ALU and 2,131 against. This means that nearly 55% of the 4,785 workers who cast ballots voted yes, and 45% no—a 10 percent margin of victory. “Today the people have spoken, and the people wanted a union,” ALU president Chris Smalls told supporters. Smalls uncorked a bottle of champagne outside the NLRB offices when the final tally came through.
MINNEAPOLIS, March 29, 2022— After a 14-day strike that was the first in Minneapolis in 50 years, teachers and education support professionals (ESPs) returned to the classroom on Monday, March 28. They had just approved a contract that their union leadership touted as achieving significant gains. The district’s 28,500 students returned the next day. The contract includes significant raises for ESPs, bringing them close to the union’s demand for a $35,000 starting salary, with wages increasing from about $20 to nearly $24 per hour. ESPs will also get $6,000 bonuses, with those serving more than 10 years getting another $1,000. The union won its demand for mental health support teams in elementary schools and the placement of a social worker in every building. In addition, for the first time, class size caps are now in contract language, instead of a memorandum of agreement that has no teeth.
STATEN ISLAND, New York, March 20, 2022 — “We will win! We will win!” reverberated across the main entrance to Amazon’s JFK8 giant fulfillment center this afternoon. About 300 Amazon warehouse workers and their supporters rallied here to boost the efforts by the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) to win representation for more than 7,000 workers employed at JFK8. Workers will vote in person March 25-30 in a large tent set up in front of the facility.
MINNEAPOLIS, March 12, 2022—For the first time since 1970, more than 4,500 members of Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Professionals Local 59 walked off the job on Tuesday, March 8. Teachers are demanding from the district to limit class sizes, pay for additional mental health support for students, and increase wages for classroom teachers and the 1,600 education support professionals (ESPs). The strike is getting widespread support from parents, students, and the broader community.
NEW YORK CITY, March 7, 2022—The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has certified that the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) has collected enough signatures to get an election at LDJ5. This is the second fulfillment center of the retail giant in this area where workers have secured the right to a union vote. An upcoming NLRB hearing on March 14 will hash out the logistics of the LDJ5 election, according to ALU president Christian Smalls.
March 2, 2022—As locomotive engineer Marilee Taylor explained in the February 11 post on World-Outlook “BNSF Railroad Workers Resist Cruel Attendance Policy,” workers at the largest freight railroad (RR) in the U.S. are under fierce attack by the company owned by billionaire Warren Buffett. Workers who move the freight—engineers, conductors, brakemen and switchmen—frequently face work weeks of 60 hours or more, producing enormous profits for Buffett and the other wealthy RR owners. Many are on call to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with little or no predictability about when they will be called to work. Shifts are routinely 12 hours and perhaps longer before workers arrive at a destination where they can obtain some rest, often a hotel far from home. Trains are longer and heavier than ever, often carrying hazardous material, as the RRs seek to squeeze the maximum profit out of every trip. This poses serious safety risks for RR workers and the communities these trains pass through. Now Buffett’s BNSF wants more. It has imposed a new policy, called “Hi-Viz,” that demands employees to work even more hours. This cruel and dangerous policy has been upheld by a federal court judge who has ruled that the unions’ challenge to this policy is a “minor dispute,” and has denied the right to strike to oppose it.
NEW YORK CITY, February 23, 2022 — “This is our moment in history. We will carry this down to our children and our children’s’ children. We have been organizing for two years in the rain, snow, ice storms, and heat. We’re going to beat this trillion-dollar company and we’re broke as hell,” said Chris Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU). “I won’t sleep for the next 35 days. We’ve got to stay together. We’re going to win this!” Smalls was addressing about 70 people at an ALU fundraiser at the People’s Forum in midtown Manhattan on February 18. The event was also a celebration of a step forward by the workers in their union organizing drive. A day earlier, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) set March 25-30 as the dates for a union representation election to take place in person at JFK8. This is Amazon’s main fulfillment center in the New York City area employing about 5,500 workers. The ALU is a grassroots group organized by warehouse workers with no affiliation to any established national trade union. In addition to JFK8, ALU is seeking to organize Amazon’s other three adjacent facilities on Staten Island: LDJ5, DYY6, and DYX2. In fact, on February 2, as the NLRB certified that the ALU had filed enough signatures to secure a union vote at JFK8, organizers filed petitions seeking a union representation election at LDJ5.
This is a letter to the editor by railroad worker Marilee Taylor, who is a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET). She explains: “I am currently a locomotive engineer, employed at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) in Chicago. I have worked for Burlington Northern (BN) and then BNSF for more than 28 years. I’d like to take a minute to introduce the video posted below [produced by More Perfect Union and titled “Railroad Workers Barred from Striking.”] On February 1, 2022, BNSF imposed a draconian attendance policy on those of us who work in the operating crafts, engineers, conductors, switchmen and brakemen. That is, those of us who actually move the freight on trains across the country from Chicago to the West Coast and back. The video helps us to get the truth out about the issues involved and the dangers of the forced BNSF’s attendance policy aimed at denying railroad (RR) operating employees, who already often work 60 hours a week or more, any quality of life at all. Most importantly the video focuses on how this policy will dangerously affect our own safety as workers, and the safety of all our communities. The risk of more rail accidents and potential disasters affects the entire country.”
SANTA FE SPRINGS, California—Since November 3, nearly 175 workers, primarily Latinas, have been on strike against the Rich Products Corporation, a large transnational frozen foods company. The Jon Donaire Deserts plant here makes ice cream cakes that are widely distributed, including at stores like Baskin Robbins, Cold Stone, Walmart, and Von. In total, the company employs about 11,000 people. The workers are on strike demanding higher wages and improved health care from a company that had $4 billion in revenue in 2021, and whose owner, Bob Rich Jr., is valued at nearly $7.5 billion according to bloomberg.com.
In a November 17, 2021, vote, United Auto Workers (UAW) members at the major agricultural implements company John Deere approved a new contract and ended their month-long strike. The agreement, which covers some 10,000 workers in the U.S., was approved by a vote of 61% to 39%. The union ranks had rejected two previous contract offers.
November 15, 2021—The Amazon Labor Union (ALU) withdrew its request for a union representation election at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouses on November 12. The ALU had filed its petition for a union vote with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on October 25. The NLRB has approved the withdrawal request.
This is a Reporter’s Notebook based on a November 3, 2021, visit by World-Outlook editor Argiris Malapanis to the Amazon Labor Union organizing tent in front of the JFK8 Amazon fulfillment center on Staten Island, New York. It is a supplement to the news article “NY Amazon Workers File for Union Recognition,” published on World-Outlook November 4, 2021. It paints a more detailed picture of how rank-and-file workers lead this impressive unionization effort.
NEW YORK CITY, November 3, 2021—Amazon warehouse workers in New York took a big step toward unionization on October 25, when they filed more than 2,000 signatures with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking a union representation election. World-Outlook visited the union organizing center and spoke with Chris Smalls and other workers.
The Amazon Labor Union (ALU), a grassroots group organized by warehouse workers, is leading the organizing drive. With no affiliation to any of the established national trade unions, the ALU is trying to unionize the approximately 7,000 workers employed in four warehouses—the JFK8 on Staten Island and surrounding facilities dubbed LDJ5, DYY6 and DYX2. Amazon uses these warehouses to fulfill orders in the huge New York market.
If successful, the outcome will reverberate through the working class and labor movement in the United States. These workers know they are challenging a powerful enemy.
United Auto Workers (UAW) members at John Deere, one of the giants of the agricultural machinery industry worldwide, struck the company on Thursday, October 14, for the first time in more than three decades. Over 10,000 workers are on strike at plants in Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas. The Waterloo Courier reported the mood on the picket lines at entrances to the Deere plants there was “downright jovial.”
April 15, 2021—Pro-union workers suffered a setback in their effort to organize the giant Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. They lost the vote for union representation by a margin of 738 ballots cast in favor to 1798 against. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union (RWDSU), which was seeking to represent them, said it plans to challenge the result and will ask federal labor officials to investigate Amazon for creating an “atmosphere of confusion, coercion and/or fear of reprisals.”
April 2, 2021—The vote at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, closed March 29. The fight to establish a union there, however, is far from over.
Mar. 26, 2021— Workers in Bessemer, Alabama, are engaged in one of the most important union-organizing drives in recent years. Their goal is to win representation by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) at the giant Amazon warehouse there. Voting by mail by the 5,805 workers began in February. It closes March 29. The outcome can have far-reaching implications for the working class and the labor movement in the United States.