Amazon staff reject union in Alabama, lean toward it in NYC

Amazon staff reject union in Alabama, lean toward it in NYC

Amazon workers looking to unionize in two locations may be close to winning one and losing another.

Alabama employees appear to have rejected a union bid in a tight race, according to early results. There are outstanding challenged votes which could change the outcome, however.

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In New York’s Staten Island, union supporters have the edge in a count that will continue Friday morning.

Warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, voted 993 to 875 against forming a union.

The National Labor Relations Board, which oversees the election, challenged 416 votes.

FILE – People arrive for work at the Amazon distribution center in the Staten Island borough of New York. ((AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)/AP Newsroom)

In New York, the nascent Amazon Labor Union is leading by more than 350 votes out of about 2,670 tallied.

“This is just the beginning and we will continue to fight,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is organizing the union drive in Bessemer, at a Thursday news conference. “Regardless of the final outcome, workers have shown what is possible. They have helped ignite a movement.”

AMAZON UNION VOTE FOR ALABAMA, STATEN ISLAND WAREHOUSES STARTS THURSDAY

If either warehouse votes in favor of a union, it will mark a major milestone for the nation’s second-largest private employer, which has successfully avoided unions since it was founded in 1994.

The independent group called Amazon Labor Union is behind the union drive in New York. That group is led by a former Amazon employee, Christian Smalls, who claims he was fired after organizing a walkout to protest working conditions at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Signs supporting the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union are shown near an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Ala. ((AP Photo/Jay Reeves)/AP Newsroom)

“To be leading in Day One and be up a couple hundred against a trillion dollar company, this is the best feeling in the world,” Smalls said after the conclusion of Thursday’s counting.

The warehouse in Staten Island employs more than 8,300 workers, who pack and ship supplies to customers based mostly in the Northeast.

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Amazon has pushed back hard in both elections. The retail giant held mandatory meetings, where workers were told that unions are a bad idea. The company also launched an anti-union website targeting workers and placed English and Spanish posters across the Staten Island facility urging them to reject the union.

Angelika Maldonado, right, Amazon Labor Union (ALU) chairwoman of workers committee at Staten Island Amazon warehouse, Brett Daniels, center, director of organizing for ALU workers committee, and Connor Spence, left, ALU Vice President for membership ((AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)/AP Newsroom)

Pro-union workers say they want better working conditions, longer breaks and higher wages. Regular full-time employees at the Bessemer facility earn at least $15.80 an hour, higher than the estimated $14.55 per hour on average in the city.

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Amazon workers in Staten Island are seeking longer breaks, paid time off for injured employees and an hourly wage of $30, up from a minimum of just over $18 per hour offered by the company.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company invests in wages and benefits, such as health care, 401(k) plans and a prepaid college tuition program to help grow workers’ careers.

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“As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.