Amazon's union fight: Here's what's happening now

The company and its workers have been at odds for years, and things are only getting more tense.

Amazon workers and 'community allies' attend a rally outside the office of BlackRock in Manhattan, to protest against Amazon's working conditions and company policies in New York on May 24, 2021.
Photo: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon warehouse employees have tried to unionize for years. So far, it hasn't worked.

There’s a reason why many experts consider this union fight particularly important: The e-commerce giant is the second-largest employer in the U.S. with more than 950,000 employees nationally. Reports of Amazon’s mistreatment of workers have continued to surface, but no efforts to form unions have been successful, with Amazon allegedly quashing several attempts at organizing so far.

But as momentum to unionize grows across tech, even more Americans are watching what happens with Amazon than before. The unionization fight in Bessemer, Alabama has been considered a bellwether by economists, academics and organizers nationwide for how labor rights are evolving in the ecommerce-driven economy. Even after the initial vote came down against the formation of a union, the effort in Bessemer continues. And it's picking up elsewhere, too.

  • The fight to unionize an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama seems unending. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union filed more charges alleging Amazon is interfering with its union election — again. This means the fight to unionize will likely continue after the results are tallied for the facility’s second election, which began on Feb. 4.
  • Workers at two separate Amazon warehouses in Staten Island have filed petitions to hold a union vote. The JFK8 facility will be the first of the two to vote, hosting its election from March 25 to March 30 in a tent outside the warehouse.
  • Even after they lost the Bessemer vote, pro-union organizers didn't stop. Some experts encouraged Bessemer workers to form a minority union, while other Amazon facilities looked to stage their own union drives. And organizers across the country have worked to pass the PRO Act, which would strengthen unions nationally.
  • The NLRB has long been at odds with Amazon. It reached a settlement with the company that enables the NLRB to investigate and sue Amazon faster and easier if it is found to be using unfair labor practices. A month after that, the NLRB filed a complaint alleging Amazon threatened, interrogated and surveilled workers in Staten Island.

2021 was a huge year for worker power, and not just at Amazon. CODE-CWA has attempted (and in some cases, succeeded) to unionize tech workers at Alphabet, Activision Blizzard, and Glitch. Additionally, workers in many sectors were asking for pay raises and benefits adjustments amidst a nationwide labor shortage last year, and tech employees in particular gave their bosses a run for their money.

The Amazon Bessemer union fight might actually last forever

February 22, 2022

After more than a year of fighting over a union election in Bessemer, Alabama, union organizers with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union have filed more charges alleging that Amazon is once more interfering illegally with the election. Despite the fact that Amazon won the first union election by more than a 2:1 ratio last year, the new charges mean the union fight will likely continue even after the results are tallied in a second election currently underway.

[Read More]

Two Amazon warehouses in Staten Island are trying to unionize

February 2, 2022

Two groups of workers in two of Amazon's Staten Island warehouses have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board to ask for a vote to unionize, becoming only the second serious union effort at the country's second-largest private employer.

The union, called Amazon Labor Union, is an independent group not affiliated with any national organization.

[Read More]

The next Amazon union vote in Bessemer, Alabama, is set for early February

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Getty Images

January 11, 2022

The warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, will get a second vote to decide whether to form a union beginning Feb. 4, in a second mail-in election after the results of a sweeping Amazon victory were thrown out by the National Labor Relations Board.

The NLRB ruled that Amazon interfered illegally in the first election last year — which Amazon won by more than a 2:1 margin — and that a second by-mail election would begin Feb. 4 and end when ballots are counted on March 28.

[Read more]

Amazon reached a workers' rights settlement with the NLRB

December 23, 2021

Amid continued backlash for unfair treatment of workers, Amazon finalized a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday to allow its warehouse employees to organize more easily.

Under the terms of the agreement, the NLRB will be able to investigate and sue Amazon more quickly and easily if it is found to be using unfair labor practices. Amazon will also email its warehouse employees with information on their rights, and must post workers' rights notices in all of its U.S. operations and on its employee app.

[Read more]

This was the year tech workers found their power

December 31, 2021

Just after New Year’s 2021, the Alphabet Workers Union became the first major group of tech workers to unionize in, at the time, an unprecedented display of organizing. If workers at a company like Facebook or Apple were to announce a formal union tomorrow, the news would no longer be nearly as shocking.

More than 10 technology companies have formed legally recognized unions since the Alphabet Workers Union announced its own. Those unions are just a small wave on top of a massive swell of broader tech worker organizing in the last year: over remote work, pay, nondisclosure agreements, sexual harassment, race- and gender-based discrimination, pay equity and more.

[Read more]

Amazon fired him. Now, he’s helping Staten Island workers unionize

Photo: Amazon Labor Union

April 28, 2021

Christian Smalls has been sitting outside of Amazon's Staten Island warehouse every day for the past week. He's working to get as many workers as possible to sign union cards with the Amazon Labor Union and plans to present these cards to Amazon as early as June, Smalls told Protocol.

Smalls and Amazon have a complicated history. The company fired him from his warehouse managerial position last March after he organized a protest against unsafe working conditions at the facility. Since then, Smalls has sued Amazon and founded The Congress of Essential Workers, a nonprofit organization focused on helping workers achieve better working conditions. The Congress, in turn, has created its own union, the Amazon Labor Union.

[Read more]

What’s next for pro-union Amazon workers? A long, hard fight.

April 9, 2021

Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama still don't have their union — but that doesn't mean there's not more organizing on the horizon.

Linda Burns, an Amazon employee who organized in favor of the union, said she's not discouraged by the results. On a press call this morning, Burns said she's proud of her fellow organizers and doesn't see this as the end. She also had a message for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

"Bezos, you're wrong," she said. "You are wrong all the way around. You misled a lot of our people. You told us [the union was] going to take our money. Well, you're taking all our money."

[Read more]

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