Analysis-Big win at Amazon promises unions


© Reuters. Amazon Labor Union (ALU) organizer Christian Smalls reacts as ALU members celebrate their official victory after hearing the results regarding the vote to unionize, outside the NLRB office in Brooklyn, City New York City, USA, April 1, 2022. REUTERS / Brendan McDermid


By Jeffrey Dastin, Danielle Kaye and Julia Love

(Reuters) – A vote by Amazon (NASDAQ::) workers to organize their warehouse in New York has surprised and inspired longtime labor advocates, who a real The new economy is working: It can be done, although it won’t be easy.

Friday’s news of the first U.S. union coming to the nation’s second-largest privately held company caused a stir among labor groups as they began to see the way forward to job vacancies. multiply and end decades of shrinking their ranks.

Amazon now seems like a more manageable target for them, though still a challenging one. About 55% of the vote at the Staten Island facility went to the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), a new group led by former employee of online retailer Christian Smalls.

The company said it could object, and that if and when the ALU wins ultimately, it still has to win the contract.

That can be as hard as winning an election, says Gregory DeFreitas, a professor of labor economics at Hofstra University.

Amazon spent more than $4 million on labor consultants in 2021 to try to attract workers, according to a government filing.

“Amazon just has a tremendous amount of resources to fight unions and a tremendous determination to do whatever it takes,” said John Logan, a professor at San Francisco State University who studies anti-union actions. what is needed to maintain union freedom.

Duplicating success at Amazon can be difficult. Local knowledge and warehouse experience have helped ALU management, who sometimes separate their work from that of national labor groups.

Burt Flickinger, chief executive officer of retail consulting firm Strategic Resource Group, who has advised several unions on organizing Amazon, said: “Leaders that workers know and trust – that’s the winning thing. Flickinger said he expects union efforts to focus on more warehouses and Amazon-owned Whole Foods stores, adding that unions will need to replenish depleted bank accounts exhausted to organize.

The New York win builds on several recent wins at Starbucks (NASDAQ:) coffee shops. It also helps to create a perspective that labor mobility is changing. According to Joshua Freeman, professor of history at CUNY School of Work and Urbanism, ALU offers innovative organizational tactics that build momentum through social media.

ALU raised the money through a GoFundMe account.

At the same time, traditional unions are reaching out to help ALU lead Smalls. Its president, Mary Kay Henry, its president, Mary Kay Henry, said.

‘spreading fast like a forest fire’

The invigorating purpose was palpable by union leaders on Friday.

Teamsters, a stalwart Amazon competitor that for many years has yet to unify one of its sites in the United States, is continuing to carry its battle “on the store floor, at the bargain table, and on the street, ‘ President Sean O’Brien said after the ALU win.

People were shouting and jumping for joy at the SEIU country offices.

“This is going to spread like wildfire,” Henry said in an interview. “It’s a huge inspiration for the workers who are fighting the big five in the airline industry, the workers who are fighting Starbucks.”

While not final, a losing union vote at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama has some worried that ALU’s victory could only happen in a friendly country. with labor like New York. Logan, a professor of labor, said.

The next battle will be on Staten Island this month at a second Amazon site, but so are some of the company’s grocery workers holding out in Seattle, as are employees or contractors elsewhere.

“Suddenly it didn’t seem futile to try to form an alliance at Amazon,” Logan said, adding, “If you can win at Amazon, you can win at Amazon. win anywhere.”

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