On April 1, the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) achieved a historic victory when 55 percent of workers at a Staten Island warehouse voted to form the first Amazon union in the United States. The news shook the labor movement around the world as millions celebrated and the victory of these hyper-exploited workers against one of the richest men in the world. Amazon has still not recognized the union, and has been trying to challenge the election results. In doing so, the company is delaying the start of the negotiation process for a first contract. The union busters who harassed thousands of workers at the JFK8 warehouse moved on to LDJ5, which is five times smaller, to prevent a second victory for ALU. As if this were not enough, Amazon is firing pro-union workers and organizers.
The Biden administration has re-awarded a massive $10 billion federal contract to Amazon, even as the president is facing mounting pressure to fulfill his promise to halt such contracts to companies that refuse to remain neutral in union elections. The contract decision came as Amazon responded to its workers’ first successful union drive by busting the organizing drive that followed. At issue is Biden’s 2020 promise to “ensure federal contracts only go to employers who sign neutrality agreements committing not to run anti-union campaigns.” Amid revelations of Amazon’s aggressive efforts to shut down a union drive among its workers, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vt.) last month sent a letter to Biden “asking you to fulfill that promise… to make sure that federal dollars do not flow into the hands of unscrupulous employers who engage in union-busting, participate in wage theft, or violate labor law.”
The German trade union Verdi on Monday launched strikes at seven Amazon locations across the country, with up to 2,500 workers demanding higher wages and better protection of their personal data. A Verdi spokesman said strikes were underway at the two distribution centers in Bad Hersfeld as well as in Koblenz, Leipzig, Rheinberg, Graben and Werne. Some strikes would last several days, he said. Amazon has 17 distribution sites across the country. The trade union has been trying for almost 10 years to force Amazon to pay workers according to the going rates for retail and mail-order workers. Amazon has persisted in paying them as logistics services providers. In addition, workers are demanding information about personal data about them that has possibly been recorded by the company.
Amazon workers at a Staten Island distribution center who sought to join a union fell short of the needed votes — failing to repeat the history-making win of colleagues at a facility across the street, in a setback for labor organizing efforts against the e-commerce behemoth. The National Labor Relations Board on Monday tallied 380 votes in favor of joining the upstart Amazon Labor Union at the LDJ5 facility, versus 618 who voted against. The vote came amid what employees and their attorneys described as intensified efforts by Amazon management to discourage “yes” votes after last month’s victory at the neighboring JFK8 facility, including requiring attendance at anti-union meetings and following organizers around.
The improbable April 1 victory of Amazon workers in Staten Island, who fought for over two years to establish the very first union at the retail behemoth, is inspiring other Amazon employees around the country and highlighting a new path forward for the labor movement. It may also reignite labor organizing at Walmart, where workers seeking to form unions have been thwarted for decades. More than two years after Amazon employee Christian Smalls led a small walkout at JFK8, the company’s sprawling distribution center on Staten Island, to protest its lack of COVID-19 health safety guidelines — soon after which he was fired — he returned in triumph. Earlier this month, at a joyful press conference on a grassy lot near the facility, Smalls and fellow organizers celebrated the historic Amazon Labor Union (ALU) win.
The Amazon Labor Union (ALU) victory on Staten Island has transformed the terrain of the U.S. labor movement and has inspired millions of workers. On Monday, a second unionization vote will begin at another Amazon warehouse of 1,600 workers just across the street, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. If successful, this second victory at warehouse LDJ5 would further consolidate the power of the ALU and prove that their first win was not a fluke. A second successful unionization vote would also confirm the importance of the ALU’s grassroots organizing model and hasten what seems like an already inevitable wave of organizing efforts at other Amazon warehouses across the country. In response, Amazon is taking every opportunity it can to lie, cheat, and intimidate workers in order to undermine the unionization effort and to overturn the first vote.
The Amazon Labor Union’s (ALU) victory is shaking the country. After unionizing a warehouse for one of the world’s biggest companies, the ALU is being flooded with messages from other workers, from Amazon workers and beyond, asking for help to organize their workplaces. This win is part of a new upsurge in union struggle in the U.S. tied to the rise of “Generation U” — “U” for “Union.” This generation of precarious, multiracial workers is posing a collective fight against the various oppressions that capitalism sustains to divide workers. Amazon’s victory also comes in a context of unionization rates at a ten-year high, and the highest public support for unions since 1965. The bosses at Starbucks — which fought ferociously to keep out unions for decades — are now witnessing their own unionization wave.
When news broke on Friday, April 1, 2022 that Amazon workers in Staten Island, N.Y. had managed to organize the first union in the notoriously anti-union company’s 27-year history, a common refrain across social media went something like this: This is not an April Fool’s Day joke. The news was so noteworthy that the name of Christian Smalls, a 33-year-old Black former Amazon employee and the interim president of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) who led the walk-out, even trended on Twitter. Did Smalls and the other employees want better pay and benefits? Absolutely. But what many people may not realize is that the drive to unionize at Amazon and elsewhere is being driven by employee concerns about health and safety at work.
On the first of April, thousands of Amazon warehouse workers voted to form the first union in the company’s history. Their unlikely victory against the $1.5 trillion behemoth’s union-busting campaign is arguably the most significant accomplishment for labor rights since the 1930s. Together with newly-formed Starbucks unions across the country, a post-pandemic labor rights movement has taken the media by storm and could represent a turning point in union influence. It's clear that this generation is growing tired of corporate interests dominating our government and society, treating “essential” workers as disposable in the name of productivity. And now, an independent pop-up group of workers has toppled America’s wealthiest and most influential company.
In one of the most remarkable labor organizing victories in decades, the Amazon workers in Staten Island voted to unionize with the independent Amazon Labor Union (ALU). This is the first organizing victory for any union at any of Amazon’s 110 warehouses across the USA, the nation’s second largest employer with over a million employees. This was a real bottom-up organizing effort potentially highlighting an effective way forward for the rest of labor – a victory that gives momentum to workers not only in the other Amazon warehouses but in all industries. It demonstrates how and why rank and file workers are the essential elements of not only a successful organizing drive but critical to a revitalized labor movement based on struggle.
The company has billed itself as the everything store. Now Amazon is the throw-everything-at-them union-buster—trying every trick in the playbook to throttle worker organizing at its Staten Island warehouses in New York City. The union vote at a second warehouse, a neighboring sorting center known as LDJ5, is set to start April 25, so the company has turned its focus there. “All those union-busters that were there to union-bust 8,000 workers at JFK8 have walked across the street and are in our little building of 1,600 people,” a visibly shaken Madeline Wesley, who works at LDJ5, told reporters at a press conference last week. “They’re really fighting us, and they’re playing really dirty.”
Amazon workers in Staten Island defeated one of the wealthiest and most anti-union corporations in the world. Their victory is a repudiation of the failed strategy of the labor bureaucracy and shows the power of real rank and file organizing.
A strike by Amazon workers in France resumed in earnest on Tuesday, April 5, and extended to all Amazon sites across the country. “Management offered us a 3 percent increase, but we want at least 5 percent,” Antoine Delorme of the CGT Amazon trade union at Châlons-sur-Saône told Révolution Permanente. This is happening in the context of compulsory annual negotiations (NAO) under France’s Labor Code. Management’s proposal of a wage increase that is less than inflation has provoked an unprecedented strike movement at every Amazon France facility.
Because most of what passes as Black thought nowadays has been criminally captured by white capital (philanthropic foundations, corporate advertising, government funding, academia, business roundtables etc.) it was inevitable that the recent union victory against Amazon would fail to trend in the same spellbounding way as recent stories have in the Blacksphere. As a consequence, a feeble smack from one rich negro onto another and a token "First Black " woman judge appointed to a supreme court that regularly rules against (Black) labor is naturally lifted above the story of the first union to form against the insidiously hostile employer, Amazon, that was led by a working class Black man, Chris Smalls .
Amazon workers in Staten Island, N.Y., astonished the world last week when they voted to form the first-ever U.S. union at the e‑commerce behemoth, which is known for ferociously opposing its workers’ efforts to organize. The Amazon Labor Union (ALU), which won the effort at the JFK8 fulfillment center, had been targeted by such anti-union efforts, and its co-founder, Chris Smalls, had been called “not smart or articulate” by Amazon officials. (Smalls co-founded the union after he was fired for organizing for safer conditions during the pandemic.) Workers and organizers across the country are looking to this campaign for lessons on how to overcome such aggressive tactics from Amazon, which has long proved difficult to organize.