Amazon, UPS In Full-On Labor Battles

Amazon JFK8 exterior feature

Amazon lost another skirmish in its ongoing multi-front labor war, as a federal regulator ruled Wednesday against its petition to have a successful union vote at a Staten Island, NY facility decertified due to what it alleges were improprieties and government favoritism.

In hearings before the National Labor Relations Board, Amazon claimed that regulators and the union improperly suppressed and influenced the vote.

At the same time, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is raising the heat of its rhetoric ahead of the expiration of its contract with UPS on July 31, and ramping up its war footing. The first work stoppage against UPS since 1997 is not out of the question, with union organizing efforts nationwide experiencing a renaissance, including a win at Apple and walkouts frothing over at Starbuck’s.

“(Teamsters President Sean O’Brien) is going to pick a fight with this company, and that fight is to get the very best contract we can get for our members,” said union general secretary-treasurer Fred Zuckerman at a meeting this week of the UPS National Screening Committee in Washington, DC. “This contract is going to be unlike the contracts of the past 25 years where UPS comes in and says they want a cost-neutral contract. It’s not going to be a cost-neutral contract. We’re going to take from them what our members deserve.”

Amazon plans to appeal the Staten Island decision, meaning it will end up before the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, DC, and the ultimate outcome is far from settled. Even if it failed there, Amazon could drag out the issue for months or years by refusing to negotiate.

In April 2022, workers at JFK8 in Staten Island voted 2,654 to 2,131 to join the Amazon Labor Union (ALU). A month later, it lost a union vote at a separate Amazon sorting facility nearby.

Unions have had less success elsewhere against Amazon. Two votes at a fulfillment center in Bessemer, AL have gone in the company’s favor, with experts citing employee turnover as a headwind against organizing efforts by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Cornele Overstreet, a regional director with the NLRB, said in his ruling Wednesday that Amazon hadn’t provided sufficient evidence to overturn the election results, an NLRB spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal.

“We’re ecstatic right now,” said ALU interim President Chris Smalls, who was fired from JFK8 in March 2020, he thinks in reaction to organizing; Amazon says otherwise. “This is very historic for workers.”

“We knew it was unlikely that the NLRB regional office would rule against itself, and intend to appeal,” said Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel. “As we’ve said since the beginning, we don’t believe this election process was fair, legitimate or representative of the majority of what our team wants.”

The Teamsters’ screening committee is reviewing more than 4,000 pages of national proposals submitted by locals, as well as more than 11,000 master agreement proposals.

“We’re going into these negotiations with a clear message to UPS that we’re not going past Aug. 1,” O’Brien told the committee.