Amazon workers vote against unionizing second warehouse in setback for organized labor

By Doyinsola Oladipo and Jeffrey Dastin

NEW YORK (Reuters) Inc workers voted against unionizing a second warehouse in New York City, a ballot count on Monday showed, representing a defeat for labor organizers just weeks after they celebrated their first U.S. win at the nation's second largest private employer.

Employees at the online retailer's sortation center in the borough of Staten Island, known as LDJ5, voted 618 to 380 against joining the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), according to a tally by U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials. Turnout was about 61%.

The rejection risks slowing momentum for labor advocates who since the pandemic have made greater progress organizing at Amazon in the United States than at any other time in the company's 27-year-old history.

Earlier this year, some 55% of employees who voted from Amazon's JFK8 warehouse opted to become part of the ALU, which, under the leadership of former worker Christian Smalls, has argued for higher pay and job security.

Some employees at LDJ5, directly across the street from JFK8, took a different view. They told Reuters their jobs were part-time and required shorter shifts than at the neighboring warehouse, and they doubted a union could deliver on its demand for $30 hourly wages.

Dominque Booker said her role sorting items at LDJ5 even was easier than a job she had held at JFK8. "It's not as demanding," she said. "That's why I put no," adding: "If you want a high-paying job, go back to school."


Amazon has long been a focus for unions that consider its productivity quotas and above-average warehouse injury rates to be a threat to workers. Amazon instead says it offers great benefits and pay, that its goal-setting is fair and it invests heavily in safety.

John Logan, a professor at San Francisco State University who studies anti-union actions, said Monday's result was a disappointment for organizers but no surprise in light of Amazon's "blistering" opposition.

"This election was even more important to Amazon than it was to the ALU – a second defeat could have proved fatal to the company’s efforts to stop the organizing from spreading like wildfire, just as it has done at Starbucks," he said.

The ALU's win last month had followed a streak of union victories at Starbucks Corp stores, in what some labor experts have described as a resurgence of worker interest in unions in the United States.

However, events this past week have shown labor organizers still face immense resistance to organizing at Amazon.

The retailer has called for a re-run of the JFK8 election, saying the NLRB's Brooklyn office appeared to support the union drive and that the ALU had intimidated staff to vote in its favor, allegations the union has dismissed. On Friday, an NLRB director said Amazon would get a hearing on its objections that could overturn the result.

Workers from more than 100 Amazon buildings have reached out to the ALU in the past month to discuss organizing. The ALU greeted Monday's loss with resolve.

"The organizing will continue at this facility and beyond. The fight has just begun," the union said in a post on Twitter. It did not specify if it would file objections to the LDJ5 election.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel in a statement said: "We’re glad that our team at LDJ5 were able to have their voices heard. We look forward to continuing to work directly together as we strive to make every day better for our employees."

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin and Doyinsola Oladipo; writing by Julia Love; editing by Chris Reese and Bill Berkrot)

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