Protesters during an Amazon Labor Union (ALU) rally in the Staten Island borough of New York, USA, on Sunday, April 24, 2022.
Victor J. Blue | Mayor Bloomberg | fake images
Amazon workers will vote Monday as part of another high-stakes union drive at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York.
Approximately 1,500 workers at the LDJ5 warehouse are eligible to vote in the elections, which are held in a large white tent outside the facility. Voting began early Monday morning and continues through Friday. The National Labor Relations Board will begin counting ballots on May 2.
The election is taking place just across the street from another Amazon warehouse, known as JFK8, which in a surprise move voted in the company’s first US union less than a month ago. Unlike JFK8, a massive 855,000-square-foot warehouse with about 6,000 employees, LDJ5 is a much smaller facility where employees sort packages for delivery.
The Amazon Labor Union, made up of current and former Amazon employees, is seeking to unionize a second Amazon warehouse after its historic victory at JFK8. ALU is asking Amazon to raise hourly wages for all workers to a minimum of $30 an hour. The average hourly starting wage at US fulfillment centers is $18 per hour, according to Amazon. The union is also seeking longer breaks and better benefits, among other demands.
The more unions like ALU have targeted Amazon, the more aggressive Amazon has become in dissuading employees from joining. The company has held mandatory meetings at LDJ5 where employees must attend anti-union presentations, and even hired an influential Democratic pollster to help with its campaign.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin last week that the company believes employees are “better off” if they don’t join a union.
“In a place like Amazon that empowers employees, if they see something they can do better for customers or themselves, they can get together in a room, decide how to change it, and change it,” Jassy said. “That kind of empowerment doesn’t happen when you have unions. It is much more bureaucratic, it is much slower.”
Amazon is trying to overturn the results of the election at JFK8, arguing in a filing with the NLRB that the federal labor agency and the union acted in a way that clouded the results. A lawyer representing ALU called Amazon’s accusations “patently absurd.”
Since the successful election at JFK8, Christian Smalls, ALU president and former Amazon worker, said he has heard from several workers at other Amazon warehouses in the US.
Unionization efforts at Amazon have received high-profile endorsement in recent weeks. Earlier this month, President Joe Biden endorsed unionizing Amazon workers, saying, “Amazon, here we come.”
On Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., joined the ALU at a rally in front of LDJ5 ahead of the election. Sanders shot Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s second-richest man, in remarks at the rally.
“I’m saying to Jeff Bezos, owner of a $500 million yacht, Jeff, when you’re on your yacht, I want you to think about the workers on Staten Island and your employees across the country,” Sanders told the audience. “They don’t want a $500 million yacht. They don’t want a $23 million mansion that you have in Washington, DC. They want housing that’s affordable. They want to be able to save a few bucks to put their kids through college. They don’t want be exploited and continue this massive turnover that takes place here because of the horrible working conditions.”