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The fight to unionize Amazon’s warehouses

Amazon, one of the United State’s largest employers and a mainstay of Americans’ shopping habits, has long resisted unionization efforts such as union drives in 2000 and 2014. In recent years, though, the calls for unionization have grown louder and more public — and an upstart union was even able to win an election at one of the company’s facilities in New York.

The recent string of elections started in Bessemer, Alabama, when the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union attempted to organize Amazon’s BHM1 facility, which had around 5,800 workers at the time. In 2021, the workers voted resoundingly against unionizing, but the union successfully petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for a redo, claiming that Amazon had interfered by installing a mailbox at its own facility. The second election saw lower turnout, but much closer results, though the large number of contested ballots left the results hanging in the balance.

Elsewhere, the Amazon Labor Union, an organization made up of former and current Amazon workers that’s not affiliated with a larger union, has made attempts to organize multiple warehouses in Staten Island, New York. It ended up securing union votes at two facilities: JFK8, and LDJ5. On April 1st, 2022, workers at JFK8 voted to organize with the ALU, making their warehouse the first Amazon facility to unionize. About a month later, workers at the next-door LDJ5 facility voted against unionizing.

Throughout all of this, Amazon has faced accusations of union busting, and other attempts to interfere with the electoral process (some of which have been bizarre — it allegedly manipulated traffic patterns in Alabama). For its part, the company has accused the unions, and the National Labor Relations board, of doing the same. But with at least one warehouse unionized, it seems certain there will be other attempts to organize, and you can keep up with the latest on those efforts in this StoryStream.

  • Jay Peters

    Aug 16, 2022

    Jay Peters

    Amazon warehouse workers in Albany have filed to unionize

    An illustration of the Amazon logo on the top of a building.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Amazon warehouse staff that work at a fulfillment center outside of Albany, New York have filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the NLRB told The Verge on Tuesday. The employees, who work at Amazon’s ALB1 warehouse, have filed for a unit that would encompass around 400 workers at the facility.

    To file for a union petition, more than 30 percent of the proposed unit would have signed union authorization cards. The NLRB is currently ensuring that this step has been taken and expects to verify the petition in a matter of days and proceed to arranging a formal election.

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  • Mitchell Clark

    May 7, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    Amazon is making ‘some management changes’ at JFK8

    The New York Times reports “more than half a dozen” people were fired.
    The New York Times reports “more than half a dozen” people were fired.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Amazon has reportedly fired several senior managers that were part of “operations and leadership” at JFK8, the facility in Staten Island, New York that recently voted to unionize. According to the The New York Times, Amazon told the managers it was going through an “organizational change,” but some of their co-workers see it as a punishment for the union’s win.

    The Times writes that “more than half a dozen” managers were fired, and that many of them had been tasked with responding to unionization efforts. What that means is frustratingly vague — it could mean that the managers were tasked with keeping the union from winning, and that they were fired for failing to do so. But it could also mean that the managers had helped the union in some way, and are being fired for that (though that would likely be a case of illegal retaliation).

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  • Mitchell Clark

    May 2, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    Amazon Labor Union stumbles as workers vote down union at second NYC facility

    An illustration of the Amazon logo on the top of a building.
    The election for the facility was held last week.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Amazon workers at the LDJ5 facility in Staten Island, New York, have voted against organizing with the Amazon Labor Union at a count of 618 nos to 380 yeses. The facility has around 1,600 workers in total and began its election last week.

    It’s been a long road to the election at LDJ5. In October 2021, the ALU petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (or NLRB) to hold an election at four Staten Island facilities, including the sorting center. However, to make sure it had a sufficient showing of interest, the union refiled its petition to only include the JFK8 facility. In February, the ALU filed a new petition to hold an election for LDJ5, which was approved in March. The ALU pulled off a historic victory the next month, when workers at the JFK8 facility voted 2,654 to 2,131 in favor of unionization.

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  • Mitchell Clark

    Apr 25, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    The Amazon Labor Union beat a behemoth — can it keep winning?

    An illustration of the Amazon logo on the top of a building.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Today, workers at Amazon’s LDJ5 warehouse facility will vote on whether to organize with the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), the same union that pulled off a historic win at another Staten Island, New York, facility earlier this month. With ballots scheduled to be counted on May 2nd, the election will last just one week. After months of slow buildup, workers are just a week away from learning whether their site will unionize — assuming there aren’t any tiebreaker court fights of the kind that held up Bessemer’s second vote.

    The ALU is riding high after the election at the JFK8 facility, and it’s fair to say momentum is on the side of the organizers. But the loss in the first Bessemer election is still fresh, and the stakes are high. The results of this election could set the tone for future elections at Amazon facilities. After JFK8, the ALU said that it’s heard from workers at dozens of other warehouses, indicating that there’s potential for widespread unionization at one of the US’s largest employers. But first, the union has to prove that it can continue to win.

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  • Apr 20, 2022

    Mitchell Clark and Zoë Schiffer

    Amazon CEO says unions are ‘slower and more bureaucratic’ in leaked employee all-hands

    An illustration of the Amazon logo on the top of a building.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    In an all-hands meeting with employees on Tuesday, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy addressed the mounting efforts to unionize the company’s fulfillment centers. The discussion was sparked by an employee who asked about the company’s position on unions, per a recording of the meeting obtained by The Verge.

    Jassy argued that unionization would make employees of the company feel less empowered. “One of the things that’s unique about Amazon is that we have unusual empowerment for our employees,” he said. “If they see something they can do better for customers — or just for themselves — to get together, get in a room, decide to change it, and change it, and do it quickly. We encourage that type of speed. You know, you’re part of the union it’s much slower and much more bureaucratic, much harder to do that.”

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  • James Vincent

    Apr 19, 2022

    James Vincent

    Judge orders Amazon to reinstate warehouse worker unlawfully fired over safety protests

    Photo by Natt Garun / The Verge

    Amazon has been ordered to reinstate an employee unlawfully fired by the company two years ago for his involvement in safety protests at a Staten Island warehouse.

    Gerald Bryson was protesting outside the Amazon facility known as JFK8 on April 6th 2020, when he got into an argument with an employee on a break. Court filings (which include transcripts of the incident taken from videos as appendixes B and C) show that both Bryson and the employee used profanities and insults against one another. Bryson said Amazon should shut down the warehouse for failing to adequately protect workers against COVID-19, while the employee replied “it’s the only fucking job open so appreciate it.”

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  • Mitchell Clark

    Apr 14, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    In his first Amazon shareholder letter, CEO Andy Jassy talks AWS, Prime, and labor

    Climate Pledge Arena Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
    Jassy calls 2021 a “crazy and unpredictable year.”
    Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Andy Jassy, who became Amazon’s CEO last year, has released his first annual letter to shareholders, which acts as a recap of how the company did in 2021 and outlines its goals for the future. The letter starts by extolling Amazon Web Services’ role in helping businesses during the pandemic — familiar subject matter for Jassy, whose previous role was as CEO of AWS. The letter also discusses familiar subjects like supply chain disruption, labor shortages, and Amazon’s focus on getting out more Prime packages faster.

    Labor is a hot-button topic for Amazon right now. Beyond the difficulty of getting new employees, Jassy does address reports that the company has significantly higher injury rates than the industry average for warehouse workers by saying that it’s working to systematically solve “the top 100 employee experience pain points.” But Jassy is silent on the topic of labor organization. Amazon is currently in the middle of two disputed unionization elections, one in Bessemer, Alabama (where the union objected to Amazon’s actions against campaigners), the other in Staten Island, New York (where Amazon objected following the union’s historic win). Another union election is slated to start at its LDJ5 facility on April 25th.

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  • Mitchell Clark

    Apr 8, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    Amazon says union and NLRB “suppressed and influenced” Staten Island election

    Illustration of Amazon’s wordmark in an orange and black bull’s-eye.
    It’s asking the election results be overturned.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Amazon has officially filed its objections to the Amazon Labor Union’s win in Staten Island, New York, and is asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to order a new election. The objections expand upon a document the company recently submitted that signaled its intent to fight the election results — the company now says that ALU members “intimidated employees,” “recorded voters in the polling place,” and “distributed marijuana to employees in exchange for their support,” according to an excerpt posted by Financial Times reporter Dave Lee.

    The full complaint was not immediately available from the NLRB on Friday. The Amazon Labor Union didn’t immediately reply to The Verge’s request for comment.

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  • Mitchell Clark

    Apr 8, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    Union files objections to Amazon’s actions in Bessemer, AL election

    The union wants the election set aside.
    The union wants the election set aside.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (or RWDSU) has filed objections against Amazon to the National Labor Relations Board, saying that the company has again interfered with its election in Bessemer, Alabama (via CNBC).

    In a press release, the union alleges that the company “threatened an employee with plant closure if the Union was voted in,” barred employees from posting pro-union literature, and “engaged in surveillance and / or created the impression of surveillance of employees engaged in protected concerted activities,” among many other things. The union is asking the NLRB to schedule a hearing on its objections to determine whether the results of the second Bessemer election should be set aside and a new election held.

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  • Mitchell Clark

    Apr 7, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    Amazon plans to object to union victory in New York

    The company isn’t letting workers organize without a fight.
    The company isn’t letting workers organize without a fight.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Amazon is planning to object to the results of the election where workers at a New York warehouse voted to organize with the Amazon Labor Union, according to a deadline extension request the company filed with the National Labor Relations Board (or NLRB). In the document, which you can read in full below, Amazon says that it’s gathering evidence to show that the union “threatened employees to coerce them into voting yes,” “electioneered and interfered with employees waiting in line to vote,” and “threatened immigrants with the loss of benefits if they did not vote.”

    Amazon hasn’t yet filed its final, official objections, according to Kayla Blado, a spokesperson for the NLRB. It will have until 11:59PM ET on Friday to do so, though the company has until April 22nd to file the proof it claims to be gathering.

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  • Kim Lyons

    Apr 7, 2022

    Kim Lyons

    US labor board moves to block Amazon’s favorite anti-union tactic

    BROOKLYN, NY - APRIL 01: Jean-Michel Mutore (center)
    Companies like Amazon often use mandatory meetings to persuade workers against unionizing.
    Photo by Yana Paskova / For The Washington Post via Getty Images

    The National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel plans to ask the board to rule that mandatory meetings about organizing are a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, a significant potential victory for labor groups. Sometimes called “captive audience” meetings, mandatory meetings are often used by company management to present anti-union rhetoric at meetings that employees are required to attend while at work.

    Employees trying to unionize Amazon warehouses in Bessemer, Alabama, and New York City have previously filed complaints with the NLRB claiming that the company held such meetings to try to convince workers to vote against the union efforts. The NLRB has historically allowed such meetings, but a new memo from NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo is pushing the agency to break from that policy.

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  • Emma Roth

    Apr 4, 2022

    Emma Roth

    These are the words Amazon’s planned employee chat app reportedly won’t let you say

    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Amazon reportedly plans to add a content filter to an internal messaging app in the making and would ban words that reflect the company’s working conditions or pertain to organizing a union, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept.

    With the filter in place, the app would block or flag messages that include words like “union,” “slave labor,” “grievance,” “living wage,” and more. Oh yeah, it would filter out “restroom,” too (probably to prevent you from telling your coworker you “just went to the restroom in a bottle”).

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  • Apr 4, 2022

    Kim Lyons and Mitchell Clark

    Amazon union workers won in New York — can they win across the country?

    Union fist breaking out of an Amazon box, surrounded by other amazon boxes.
    What comes after a historic win?
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    The Amazon Labor Union (ALU) scored a historic victory on April 1st when it became the first-ever union to successfully organize Amazon employees. Christian Smalls, a fired worker motivated by what he viewed as poor treatment, rallied his co-workers through the process and, in January 2022, got just enough votes to qualify for a formal election. On Friday, the workers of Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse voted to unionize, 2,654 to 2,131.

    It was a hard-won victory, coming after years of work, and labor activists are already hoping to apply the same tactics to the hundreds of thousands of Amazon warehouse workers across the rest of the country. After the RWDSU’s stumble in the Bessemer election last year, the newly formed Amazon Labor Union is pointing to a different path forward — and forcing Amazon to take a hard second look at working conditions in many of its fulfillment centers.

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  • Kim Lyons

    Apr 1, 2022

    Kim Lyons

    Amazon workers vote to unionize Staten Island warehouse

    Staten Island Amazon Warehouse Begins Vote On Unionization
    Workers at Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center voted whether to unionize
    Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

    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.

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  • Mar 31, 2022

    Kim Lyons, Mitchell Clark and 1 more

    The Amazon Bessemer union election is going into overtime

    US-IT-POLITICS-LABOR-AMAZON
    Workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama held their second union vote
    Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

    The votes for the union drive at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, have been counted, but the final result is so close that it will depend on a court hearing yet to come.

    The vote count announced on Thursday was 993 against and 875 in favor, with 59 ballots counted as void and 416 counted as challenged. Since the challenged ballots are sufficient to swing the election, the result will depend on a court hearing adjudicating the status of the challenged ballots. That hearing has yet to be scheduled but is likely to take place in the next few weeks. Both parties will also have a chance to file objections to the election over the coming month.

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  • Mitchell Clark

    Mar 18, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    Workers at another NYC Amazon warehouse now have a union election date

    It’s been a long journey to this election for LDJ5.
    It’s been a long journey to this election for LDJ5.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Workers at Amazon’s LDJ5 facility in Staten Island in New York City will be voting on whether to unionize with the Amazon Labor Union starting April 25th, according to a report from CNBC. It’s the second Staten Island Amazon warehouse to have a union election scheduled; workers at the company’s JFK8 facility — also seeking to be represented by the ALU— will begin voting on March 25th.

    According to CNBC, the LDJ5 vote will be in person, and the National Labor Relations Board will tally the results beginning May 2nd.

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  • Mitchell Clark

    Mar 17, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    The NLRB is suing Amazon to get a fired activist his job back

    The NLRB says Gerald Bryson’s firing is a clear case of retaliation.
    The NLRB says Gerald Bryson’s firing is a clear case of retaliation.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Amazon is facing a lawsuit in federal court from the National Labor Relations Board. The watchdog has asked a judge to issue an injunction forcing Amazon to give labor activist Gerald Bryson his job back. Amazon fired Bryson in April 2020, in what the NLRB says is a clear case of Amazon retaliating against him for protesting unsafe working conditions at its JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, NY.

    According to the NLRB, the Section 10(j) injunction it’s pursuing is intended to temporarily make a situation right when the court case could take too long to fix the alleged issue. In this case, Bryson has been fighting to get his job back for almost two years, according to The New York Times. The NLRB petition (which you can read in full below) argues that other employees may be afraid to speak out if Bryson isn’t reinstated, as it views Bryson’s firing as a message from Amazon to its workers. That’s especially relevant now, as workers at the JFK8 warehouse are voting on unionization starting next Friday, March 25th.

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  • Mitchell Clark

    Mar 16, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    Amazon workers in New York and Maryland are protesting for better wages

    Around 60 workers banded together to demand a $3 raise.
    Around 60 workers banded together to demand a $3 raise.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Early Wednesday morning, Amazon workers staged a walkout in two states, quitting work and even shutting off a machine to demand a $3 raise. The workers also demanded that Amazon bring back 20-minute breaks — a “perk” introduced during COVID that the company has since replaced with 15-minute breaks, according to Vice. The actions are part of a wave of labor activism at Amazon as more employees band together to demand better working conditions, compensation, and representation.

    The roughly 60 workers were employees at three different warehouses in New York and Maryland, working the night shifts. The walkout was organized by Amazonians United, a group that includes workers from at least nine warehouses nationwide, according to Vice. In December, AU led a multi-warehouse walkout in Chicago to demand better pay. According to the Amazonians United Chicagoland Twitter account, workers received a $2.20 raise the next month. 

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  • Mitchell Clark

    Mar 3, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    Amazon Labor Union says it has NLRB go-ahead for second NYC election

    Two other Amazon warehouses are involved in union elections.
    Two other Amazon warehouses are involved in union elections.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Amazon employees at the Staten Island LDJ5 warehouse have gotten the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) permission to continue with unionization efforts, according to the Amazon Labor Union, after the workers filed a petition to unionize in February. According to a screenshot posted by Vice reporter Lauren Kaori Gurley, Amazon has acknowledged the decision in a message sent to employees through its A to Z app.

    The Amazon Labor Union, or ALU, has been working to unionize the facility for a while — in October it filed a petition to unionize Amazon’s facilities on Staten Island, but later refiled that petition to focus on a single warehouse, JFK8. Workers at JFK8 have since gotten approval to hold an election starting on March 25th. Kayla Blado, a spokesperson for the NLRB, confirmed toThe Verge that the union submitted a sufficient number of signed union cards to continue with the election process.

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  • Kim Lyons

    Feb 16, 2022

    Kim Lyons

    Amazon workers at Staten Island warehouse will vote next month on whether to unionize

    An illustration of the Amazon logo on the top of a building.
    Amazon workers in New York will vote on unionization
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island in New York City will hold an election next month to decide whether to unionize, the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) said Wednesday. Workers at the warehouse, called JFK8, will vote between March 25th and March 30th, according to the ALU, which is representing the workers. The election will be held in person at a tent outside the warehouse, the ALU tweeted.

    The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) did not immediately confirm the dates, but said Wednesday afternoon that the parties “have tentatively reached a stipulated election agreement.” A hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning was suspended pending finalization of the tentative agreement, according to an email from NLRB spokesperson Elliott Becker.

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  • Kim Lyons

    Feb 3, 2022

    Kim Lyons

    Amazon workers at a second warehouse in NYC say they have filed a petition to unionize

    An illustration of the Amazon logo on the top of a building.
    Amazon warehouse workers petition to unionize
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Workers at a second Amazon warehouse on Staten Island in New York City have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to join a union, according to the Amazon Labor Union. The group tweeted Wednesday that it had electronically filed a petition for election for workers at the LDJ5 warehouse.

    NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado said Thursday the petition was received by its regional office in Brooklyn, and that office will “make sure the union has met the showing of interest requirement to proceed with a union election.” This would mean signed cards from 30 percent of the unit petitioned for. If it meets the requirement, the NLRB would determine which positions would be included in the bargaining unit, Blado added, before setting a date for an election.

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  • Mitchell Clark

    Jan 28, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    NLRB alleges Amazon broke the law with anti-labor action in New York

    An illustration of the Amazon logo on the top of a building.
    The Amazon Labor Union recently announced it would be holding an election.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against Amazon, alleging that the company illegally threatened, surveilled, and interrogated workers who were trying to start a union at its Staten Island, New York facilities. The company also reportedly hired a union avoidance consultant who told workers that the union organizers were “thugs,” according to Motherboard.

    The NLRB complaint, a copy of which was obtained by The Verge, details other alleged incidents between Amazon and union organizers, including multiple times when security guards kept organizers from distributing pamphlets that discussed unions. The company also allegedly “solicited grievances from employees with an express promise to remedy them if they rejected the Union as their bargaining representative,” according to the complaint.

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  • Mitchell Clark

    Jan 27, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    A union election is moving forward at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse

    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    The Amazon Labor Union (ALU) is moving forward with unionization efforts at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse after having “reached a sufficient showing of interest” to hold an election, according to National Labor Relations Board spokesperson Kayla Blado. The NLRB says that it’s scheduled a hearing for February 16th, after which the specifics and date for the election will be decided. This is only the second time Amazon’s warehouse workers have made it to this point in the unionization process, as Vice reporter Lauren Kaori Gurley pointed out on Twitter.

    On Wednesday, the ALU tweeted that its petition had been accepted and that “the fight is just beginning.” It’s been working to unionize Amazon workers in New York for a while: in October 2021, it filed with the NLRB to hold a union election for Amazon facilities on Staten Island. It later withdrew the request because it didn’t have enough signatures, and refiled in December, focusing on just the JFK8 warehouse where it held walkouts before.

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  • Kim Lyons

    Jan 21, 2022

    Kim Lyons

    Amazon facing formal complaint from labor board over worker firing

    The NLRB will issue a formal complaint against Amazon unless it settles a case with a fired worker
    The NLRB will issue a formal complaint against Amazon unless it settles a case with a fired worker
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    The National Labor Relations Board is preparing to issue a complaint against Amazon alleging the company illegally fired a worker at one of its New York warehouses, unless the company settles the case first. At issue is whether Daequan Smith, an organizer with the newly-formed Amazon Labor Union (ALU), was fired for trying to organize.

    As first reported by Bloomberg, NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado confirmed Friday that the agency’s regional director Kathy Drew King determined allegations by the ALU that Smith was fired illegally had merit and would issue a complaint if the case doesn’t settle. “The complaint would allege a discharge because of union and other protected concerted activities, among other allegations,” Blado said.

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  • Mitchell Clark

    Jan 11, 2022

    Mitchell Clark

    Amazon workers will redo Bessemer union election on February 4th

    The NLRB said Amazon broke labor laws in the original election.
    The NLRB said Amazon broke labor laws in the original election.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    The second union election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama will begin on February 4th, according to a notice posted Tuesday by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which you can read below. The election is a redo of the one that was carried out in 2021, the results of which were declared invalid by the regulatory agency after reports that Amazon had broken labor laws during the union drive.

    The election will be carried out almost a year after workers originally voted on whether to unionize Amazon’s BHM1 facility. The union lost that election nearly two-to-one but disputed the results, taking issue with a mailbox that employees feared Amazon had access to. The mailbox was installed by the USPS, at Amazon’s request, and at one point had a “privacy tent” put up around it, which the NLRB says employees believed was monitored with video.

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