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New York Amazon Workers File to Unionize Just Before Election Rerun in Bessemer

The LDJ5 sorting facility is the second Amazon warehouse in Staten Island to file for unionization.

A woman works in an Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island in New York City, on February 5, 2019.

Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, filed for a union election on Wednesday, marking the second warehouse in the area to file for unionization.

According to Vice’s Lauren Kaori Gurley, roughly 1,500 people work at LDJ5, an Amazon sorting facility. If the filing is recognized by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the warehouse will join Staten Island Amazon fulfillment center JFK8 in securing a union election for representation with Amazon Labor Union.

“This is an amazing moment in history, seeing Amazon workers finally taking the brave steps to make their voices heard,” Amazon Labor Union wrote on Twitter.

JFK8 workers had originally filed for unionization in December, confident that their petition had enough valid signatures for a vote on unionization after months of organizing. But Amazon contacted the NLRB saying that there were roughly 4,100 more workers than the union organizers had believed, leading them to withdraw their petition.

Organizers disputed the count, and weeks later, the NLRB ruled that the workers had enough signatures and scheduled a hearing in mid-February for the latest petition. Union leader and organizer Christian Smalls, who was fired in 2020 while organizing a walkout, told Bloomberg that he is confident JFK8’s union vote will be successful.

JFK8’s filing comes just two days before the union election for Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, which is slated to begin on February 4. This will be the second time that Bessemer workers get a union vote; last year, the NLRB found that the company had illegally interfered with the union election and ruled that the workers get a rerun.

Organizers and the NLRB had taken particular issue with a mailbox that was installed outside of the Bessemer warehouse for turning in ballots; the mailbox, which is surveilled by cameras, is still present on warehouse grounds. Workers had also reported getting interrogated by managers on whether or not they had voted yet.

According to the compromised vote count, Bessemer workers resoundingly rejected the union last year – but organizers say that this union drive will be different.

“The reason why I think it’s going to be different this time around is just by the sheer fact that a lot of us are showing that we are committed to forming our union,” organizer and Amazon worker Isaiah Thomas told More Perfect Union. “A lot of us are showing that regardless of the things they throw our way, whether it be the turnover rate, or whether it be the mandatory anti-union meetings, or whether it be surveillance, we’re going to stick together.”

Thomas filed two complaints against Amazon with the NLRB last month, saying that the company attempted to discipline him for talking to colleagues about the union, a tactic that is potentially illegal. The company also placed him under increased surveillance, Thomas said in his complaint.

Organizers believe that the second election could potentially have a greater turnout because some workers may have been misinformed during the vote last year. Since then, pro-union workers have been bolder in speaking up during management’s union-busting meetings, which has “done wonders,” Clint Shiflett told More Perfect Union. “That has really helped to shift the attitude towards the union.”

Though neither of Staten Island’s elections have started yet, the company currently faces charges of illegal union busting in the JFK8 campaign. Last week, the NLRB said that Amazon was illegally surveilling, interrogating and threatening employees who were organizing. According to the NLRB, one representative referred to union organizers as “thugs,” a racist term, and said that their effort was destined to fail.

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