Amazon Labor Union Loses Vote Next Door to Their First Victory

Amazon Labor Union's loss at LDJ5 in Staten Island shows that despite its stunning upset in April, unionization efforts at Amazon still face an uphill battle.

May 2 2022, 6:34pm
On the Clock is Motherboard's reporting on the organized labor movement, gig work, automation, and the future of work.

Amazon associates at a sortation center in Staten Island have voted against unionizing with Amazon Labor Union, according to results tallied by the National Labor Relations Board on Monday, in a defeat for the union. 

Employees at the Amazon warehouse, known as LDJ5, cast 618 ballots against unionizing with Amazon Labor Union and 380 ballots in favor, giving Amazon 62 percent share of the vote. There were no contested ballots. Turnout was 61 percent of eligible voters.

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LDJ5 is located in the same complex as Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse, which became the first in the United States to vote to unionize, in a historic upset victory for Amazon Labor Union. ALU’s loss in LDJ5 shows that despite its stunning upset in April, unionization efforts at Amazon are still facing an uphill battle in New York and across the country.

“I’m not surprised at this result with all the union busting that went on at LDJ5,” said Seth Goldstein, a New Jersey labor attorney who represents Amazon Labor Union pro-bono, and has filed more than 40 unfair labor practices charges against Amazon on their behalf. “We will certainly contest the election. They violated laboratory conditions in this election with mandatory anti-union meetings and we've already got a whole series of charges against them."

“We’re glad that our team at LDJ5 were able to have their voices heard,” said Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson. “We look forward to continuing to work directly together as we strive to make every day better for our employees.”

The tech behemoth doubled on its anti-union campaign after losing the election at JFK8 in April. Meanwhile, the U.S. labor movement rallied around the Amazon Labor Union and all eyes shifted to LDJ5. At stake in this election was whether ALU’s victory at JFK8 could be replicated at other Amazon warehouses. Since April, hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers have reached out to ALU for help unionizing. 

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In the lead-up to the election at LDJ5, the union received strong endorsements from leaders of the US labor movement, such as Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, and visits from Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Nonetheless, the high-profile attention did not boost the union enough to make a difference.

Amazon is seeking to have the labor board overturn the election results at JFK8, claiming that the union intimidated workers to vote for it. 

The victory at JFK8 shocked the labor movement as Amazon Labor Union, a worker-led, independent union without significant financial resources succeeded in achieving the first union victory at Amazon. Amazon is slated to become the largest employer in the United States in the next year or two. 

Amazon Labor Union faced a different set of challenges in convincing workers at LDJ5 to vote in favor of the union than it did at JFK8. LDJ5 has only been open since late 2020, and for many employees, the position is a part-time job and a second source of income. Organizers say both factors mean workers have fewer grievances than they do at JFK8. By comparison, JFK8 has been open since 2018. Amazon Labor Union also has fewer organizers who work in LDJ5, and has spent less time organizing the facility. 

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At LDJ5, Amazon doubled down on its anti-union campaign, disciplining organizers, forcing workers to remove union banners and union literature from the break room, and shutting down production to hold mandatory anti-union meetings. During the meetings, Amazon workers were no longer invited to ask questions—likely because at JFK8, organizers succeeded in using meeting time to grill and interrupt union avoidance consultants.


Amazon Labor Union says it will fight for a $30-an-hour wage for workers, the right to union representation in disciplinary hearings, and longer breaks. 

Julian “Mitch” Israel, an Amazon warehouse worker at LDJ5 and ALU’s field director, told Motherboard that following the victory at JFK8, the union needed to “play catch-up a little bit” at LDJ5. “The win at JFK8 boosted us up at LDJ5, but at the same time, Amazon had planted a deep anti-union seed in a lot of workers at LDJ5,” Israel said shortly before voting began. 

In the weeks leading up to the vote at LDJ5, organizers camped out in the break room and outside the warehouse at tables with union literature, food, and ALU T-shirts, playing Soka and R&B on a portable speaker. “We matched the food with the music,” said Israel. “Most days, we were out there from 6 a.m. to the following 2 a.m.”

One major concern among workers at LDJ5 is getting full-time status and hours. Michael Aguilar, a 22-year-old LDJ5 warehouse worker who’s been at Amazon off and on since 2019, said his desire to secure full-time status in part prompted him to organize his co-workers at LDJ5 to vote for the union. 

“I’m part-time and tried to apply for full-time, and Amazon denied me because there were so many new hires,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of part-timers and they’re all angry that they couldn’t become full-time as well.”

Tagged:

NEW YORK CITY, labor, Staten Island, Union, On the Clock, christian smalls, Amazon labor union

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