This successful vote to be represented by the Amazon Labor Union at the Staten Island, New York facility is the first successful union effort in Amazon’s 27 years. The grassroots movement, started by Former Amazon employee Christian Smalls, created enough interest within this facility to hold an election. The election was met by Amazon with an anti-union campaign, including group meetings, texts and signage.
Despite Amazon’s attempts to stop the union, the election was successful. Labor experts say this has the potential to cause a ripple effect, inspiring workers at other Amazon locations to unionize, as well as broader labor movements across the United States.
Thomas Lenz, a USC Professor and practicing labor attorney, explains the importance of unions for workers and the implications of their absence.
Thomas Lenz: “The percentage of unions in the workplace is under 10%... It means that management really has to comply with the law, but not so much listen to the workers. So this is going to change things and give workers more of a voice at the bargaining table.”
Just last year, Amazon spent 4.3 million dollars on anti-union consultants. The company announced in a statement Friday that they will be exploring options to challenge the results of the union election. Amazon claims the the National Labor relations Board had an inappropriate influence on the outcome.
A similar process started in Alabama last year. Despite a close election, Amazon won and no Union was formed. The workers in Alabama are continuing to fight for their right to unionize.
If these unions are able to form, it will create a platform for workers to bargain for better pay, improved work conditions, better benefits and shorter work days for Amazon employees.
These union elections at Amazon have been in the public eye and have a huge impact on the labor movement as a whole, as well as Joe Biden’s presidency, as he declared himself to be the most pro-union president in American history.
Thomas Lenz: “I think the labor movement is watching Amazon because it is so high profile and if labor is successful, it will inspire other campaigns elsewhere. If labor fails, it will inspire efforts to change the law because unions will say it is too hard to organize under the current legal system.”
Lenz says As politicians and lawyers look at labor laws moving forward, it is important to develop guidelines and policies with clarity. The politicization of labor law has caused laws to fluctuate depending upon who is appointed to office.
Thomas Lenz: “When you have fluctuation in the system, it makes it very hard for for workers unions and even employers to know what the rule of law is. That lack of clarity is going to tie up the courts and it is not going to give people the guidance that they need.”
The Amazon union election has received lots of praise, both from the white house and large labor unions. Many expect this momentum to continue in hopes of improving working conditions and bargaining abilities for Amazon employers as well as workers everywhere.
For Annenberg Media, Bella Durgin-Johnson.