Workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York City have voted to unionize, an historic first for workers at the e-commerce company. The final tally was 2,654 yes votes, and 2,131, with 67 challenges. The workers at the JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island will join the Amazon Labor Union, as the number of challenges is not sufficient to affect the outcome.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined in January that unionization efforts at the facility had “reached a sufficient showing of interest” to hold an election. The facility employs roughly 5,000 people.
In a statement posted to its website Friday, Amazon said it was “disappointed with the outcome of the election because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees.” The company is evaluating its options, the post says, “including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB” that it claims it witnessed. The post didn’t specify what “influence” it was referring to.
The ALU has been trying to unionize Amazon workers in New York for nearly two years. In October 2021, it filed with the NLRB to hold a union election for two Amazon facilities on Staten Island but later withdrew the request because it didn’t have enough signatures. The union refiled in December, focusing on just the JFK8 warehouse, which was the site of several worker protests and walkouts during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Unlike the Bessemer unionization effort, the ALU is not affiliated with a national union or larger organization. It is the personal project of Christian Smalls, who was fired from the Staten Island site after organizing a walkout. After Friday’s tally was announced Smalls told reporters he wanted to thank former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos “because while he was up in space we were signing people up.”
The JFK8 election is the first to approve a union for Amazon warehouse workers in the US. Following another union drive at Amazon’s BHM1 facility in Bessemer, Alabama, the NLRB ordered a re-do of an election held last year after it determined that Amazon had interfered with the first election. On Thursday, the votes in Bessemer appeared to go against the union, with 933 against and 875 in favor, but since the final result is so close, there will be a hearing on 416 challenged ballots. The hearing is expected to be scheduled in the next few weeks, and both the union and Amazon will have the opportunity to file any objections to the election over the coming month.
Update April 1st 2:19PM ET: Adds statement from Amazon and remark from Smalls.