November 4, 2022 — On October 21, less than two weeks after filing with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a union representation election, United4Change withdrew its petition for an election at Amazon’s ONT8 warehouse in Moreno Valley, California. United4Change is affiliated with the Amazon Labor Union (ALU). To hold an election supervised by the NLRB, a union must show it has gathered signatures of support from at least 30% of workers eligible to vote. United4Change initially estimated there were 800 workers in the proposed bargaining unit. But Amazon formally challenged that number in a filing with the NLRB saying the actual number is 2,645. The labor board accepted the company’s assertion without comment. The ALU has not released an official statement as to why the union withdrew the petition. But since Amazon claimed the number of employees is three times larger than the union’s estimate, it is clear that the 30% threshold — as defined by Amazon and the NLRB — was not reached. In an October 30 interview, ONT8 worker and lead union organizer Nannette Plascencia described the withdrawal of the petition as a temporary setback. She said the union is continuing to collect more signatures.
On April 1, the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) won a historic union representation election at JFK8, the Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York. It was the first time workers at one of the retail giant’s U.S. facilities voted to unionize. Since then, the ALU — a group led by rank-and-file workers with no affiliation to any established national trade union — has been collaborating with Amazon workers across the country trying to organize themselves into a union. The following is based on a September 30 World-Outlook interview with Nannette Plascencia, a worker at the Amazon ONT8 fulfillment center in Moreno Valley, California, and a lead organizer of United4Change — an affiliate of the ALU.
ALBANY, New York, October 18, 2022 — Workers at Amazon’s fulfillment center in New York’s capital district region voted by a margin of 2-1 against representation by the Amazon Labor Union (ALU). According to the results released by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today, the vote was 206 in favor of union representation to 406 against, with 31 challenged and 4 void ballots. The challenged votes are not enough to affect the outcome. About 68% of the 950 workers eligible to vote took part in the election. While recognizing the huge resources Amazon put into pressuring workers into either voting “no” or not voting at all, it is important to face the lopsided character of the final tally. The 2-1 vote against the union, however, is not the only noteworthy fact. If a broader rank-and-file leadership can be forged over the coming months among those who voted for the union, steps forward can be taken to counter this setback. Some of the pro-union workers at ALB1 are pointing into this direction. “Despite all the union-busting and unfair labor practices, we recognize that a union election is just one step in a much longer struggle,” Sarah Chaudhry, who started working at ALB1 two months ago, told World-Outlook. “I will continue to fight for my fellow workers’ rights until we have our union at ALB1 and until all Amazon workers secure their right to a union.”
This 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. In a TikTok video, JFK8 workers can be seen demanding to be sent home with pay after fire breaks out releasing toxic fumes into the warehouse.
SCHODACK, New York, July 27, 2022 — Workers at Amazon’s fulfillment center in this small town near Albany, New York, protested the death of a fellow worker at EWR9, the company’s warehouse in Carteret, New Jersey. “We called this action today to honor Rafael’s life and to highlight unsafe job conditions at ALB1,” said Heather Goodall, a picker at Amazon’s warehouse here, known as ALB1. Goodall is also the union campaign manager here. Rafael Reynaldo Mota Frias, 42 died while working at EWR9 on July 13. His family later confirmed on Facebook posts that he died from cardiac arrest. The fatality occurred during the company’s Prime Day shopping rush at the Carteret fulfillment center.
ALBANY, New York, July 23, 2022 — Amazon workers at ALB1, the retail giant’s fulfillment center in Schodack, New York, have called a walkout for Wednesday, July 27. They will hold the protest during the 1:30 -2 p.m. lunchtime at ALB1’s parking lot to honor the memory of a fellow worker who died July 13 while working at EWR9, Amazon’s warehouse in Carteret, New Jersey.“ We will also demand that Amazon be held accountable for job conditions and disregard for safety that could have led to this death,” Heather Goodall told World-Outlook today. Goodall is a picker at ALB1 and the union campaign manager at the warehouse in Schodack, a small town near Albany.
About 4,000 unionists from across the country and 200 international guests from around the world attended the Labor Notes conference the weekend of June 17–19 in Chicago. The size of the gathering was noteworthy as was the participation of many young workers. A conference panel titled “Amazon Workers in Motion” highlighted some of the union organizing efforts that mark new developments in the U.S. labor movement. Among the most important is the Amazon Labor Union’s (ALU) stunning April 1 victory in the union election at JFK8, Amazon’s giant fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York. The panel brought together four Amazon workers from four different geographic regions, each with its own history and demographics. These union organizers shared their experiences while outlining differing views on strategy and tactics. Soon after the Labor Notes conference, it became clear that organizing efforts at Amazon — the second largest employer in the United States after Walmart — are spreading to other parts of the country. According to a July 9 report by ABC News, the ALU has thrown its support behind unionization efforts at two other Amazon warehouses: in Campbellsville, Kentucky; and Schodack, a small town near Albany, New York. A union solidarity rally is planned at Schodack, NY, on July 17.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.