Amazon workers walk off at a facility in Staten Island, NY in March 2020 (photo credit: Techxsplore)
Workers at an Amazon fulfillment center on Staten Island, NY have withdrawn their petition to form a union, two weeks before a meeting with the National Labor Relations Board to determine if sufficient interest existed to proceed with unionization, the NLRB told the Associated Press.
The action was the second win for Amazon in 2021 in its pitched battle against unionization efforts in the U.S. An April vote to unionize an Amazon facility in Bessemer, AL, went overwhelmingly in the company’s favor, a result the union disputed to no avail.
While the Teamsters Union and other labor groups have been active in efforts to unionize Amazon, the Staten Island effort is homegrown, led by a worker who claimed he was fired for going public with complaints about working conditions there.
Over 2,000 signatures were gathered in favor of a union between April and October and turned into the NLRB, organizers told the AP. This was north of the 1,650 required to petition for a vote, or 30% of the roughly 5,500 workers the union seeks to represent at five Amazon facilities on Staten Island.
Unions may have failed thus far to gain a foothold at Amazon workplaces here, but they have had much greater success in Europe, where workers for the ecommerce giant have organized in France, Italy, Spain and Germany.
In April the NLRB accused Amazon of illegally firing two tech workers last year who spoke out publicly about its treatment of fulfillment workers and its sustainability policies, and upheld a complaint by a worker who led a Queens, NY walkout in 2020.
Press accounts making claims of poor working conditions inside Amazon’s fulfillment, distribution and delivery centers have become legion in recent years, quoting both anonymous associates as well as public whistleblowers. Strikes and work stoppages have also become a common labor protest tactic. Amazon assiduously denies the claims while touting its leading wage, benefit and incentive packages.
The NLRB said the Staten Island group is free to re-file its petition at any time.
In September, California Gov. Gavin Newsome signed a bill that targets labor practices in ecommerce warehouses, including banning the enforcement of performance quotas that impinge on basic worker’s rights like restroom and lunch breaks. The law was widely viewed as targeting Amazon, which has a major presence in the state, and was opposed by the California Retailers Association, of which Amazon is a member.