Amazon workers begin voting for union at another Staten Island facility

About 1,500 workers at an Amazon sorting center on Staten Island will be able to vote in this week’s elections that could produce the company’s second union in the United States.

This month, an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island with over 8,000 employees became the first place vote to unionizefavoring the union by a margin of over 10 percentage points, although Amazon is trying to overturn the result.

If workers at the smaller facility, known as LDJ5, vote to join the union, they will join the Amazon Labor Union, the same independent union, led by workers who succeeded in the warehouse. The votes will be counted starting from Monday 2 May.

Speaking at a rally outside the facility on Sunday, Madeline Wesley, the treasurer of the Amazon Labor Union, said a union was needed because part-time workers, which the facility relies heavily on, couldn’t get enough hours to support themselves.

Hours “are not based on what workers want or what workers need,” said Ms. Wesley, who works at LDJ5. “It builds on what Amazon found to be more efficient at the expense of workers.”

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on worker complaints about the schedule.

In an interview at the rally, Ms. Wesley said the union expected it would be easier to organize LDJ5 after her warehouse victory, but that Amazon had been aggressive in persuading workers to vote no.

Even though the union’s outlook “looked bleak a couple of weeks ago, no one gave up,” Ms. Wesley said. “They persevered and kept talking to their colleagues. The atmosphere has changed significantly in the building. I think we had a good chance. “

But the union faces obstacles in the election, including the shorter time it has organized workers at the sorting center and the fact that most of the group’s senior officials and organizers work at the larger facility, known as JFK8, giving them less direct access to LDJ5 workers.

Many unions also find it more difficult to organize workplaces with a large percentage of part-time workers who may be less invested in organizing campaigns.

Workers who will go to the sorting center for a four-hour shift, often traveling 30 to 60 minutes each way, tend to be “a particular group of people who are really struggling to make it,” said Gene Bruskin, a worker. longtime organizer who advised the Amazon Labor Union in the two Staten Island elections.

Mr Bruskin, known for supervising a successful campaign at a huge Smithfield meat processing plant in 2008, he added, “When you have that kind of workforce, it’s really hard. You have a lot of people who might have more of the attitude, “It’s just a part time gig, I’m not staying here.” It’s an uphill struggle. “

Mr. Bruskin and other labor officials have worked to help overcome these challenges by enlisting the help of organizers from other unions, who have pledged to make phone calls, schedule meetings with workers, and talk to employees outside the facility.

Uriel Concepción, who works four-hour shifts at the facility, said in an interview on Sunday that a union would improve working conditions there. Mr. Concepción said 16 hours a week was not enough to pay the bills at home, where he lives with his parents, but that Amazon had never accepted his repeated requests for full-time work.

Eric Barrios, another worker at the facility, said in an interview that he was undecided whether to support the union. Mr. Barrios said he worked 16 hours a week and hadn’t been able to get more hours, but he feared some of the union’s goals were unrealistic.

“Some things they say are unlikely, like, for example, a $ 30 per hour is charged”Said Mr Barrios at the demonstration on Sunday. “I’m here to see if I let myself be influenced.”

The demonstration seemed to draw a crowd of over 100 people, even though many of those in attendance were not working at the facility.

However, the momentum of this month’s victory appears to have sparked more demonstrations of support for the union campaign among outsiders. Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, and Sara Nelson, president of the Flight Attendants Association, appeared at the rally on Sunday afternoon.

“I am seriously inspired,” Ms. Nelson told those in attendance, adding, “This union is the answer to my prayers.”

On Sunday morning, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, appeared on the site also.

“I am going to Staten Island to show support for the incredible courage of the Amazon workers who stood up and defeated one of America’s largest corporations,” said Mr. Sanders in an interview Friday.

He also called on President Biden to take a more active role in supporting union campaigns at Amazon and other companies, such as Starbuckswhere more than 20 stores have syndicated since December.

“I made a suggestion to the White House: why don’t you have a meeting with some of the organizers with the unions that are active now?” said Mr. Sanders. “Bring an organizer from Starbucks, from Amazon, from the other unions that are organizing. Listen to them, learn from them, ask them what they want, how the White House can be supportive. “

The 1.3 million member International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has is committed Unionization of Amazon looms large in the company’s broader organizational campaign due to its vast reach and resources. Sean O’Brien, the president of the Teamsters, has he talked about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the effort.

Mr. O’Brien and Christian Smalls, the president of the Amazon Labor Union, met this month to discuss how Teamsters could support Amazon workers in securing a contract with Amazon, according to Teamsters.

Another union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, he seemed to lose a little a vote in an Amazon warehouse in Alabama when the votes were counted in late March. But the margin was less than the number of contested ballots, leaving the outcome uncertain.

Karen way contributed to the report.