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Staten Island Amazon Workers Back Union

On April 1, 2022, after multiple years of pandemic-induced layoffs, staffing shortages, contentious vaccine policies, and other workplace issues, Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon” or the “Company”) workers at the JFK8 warehouse facility in Staten Island voted in favor of union representation under the Amazon Labor Union (“ALU”), the first certified union to represent Amazon workers. The historic vote presents a massive breakthrough in worker safety.

The ALU was created by former Amazon employee Christian Smalls. Smalls was fired from Amazon after he organized a walkout on March 30, 2020, to protest insufficient COVID-19 exposure protocols at JFK8. The Company claimed this violated its social distancing policies, as Smalls had been exposed to COVID on March 11, 2020. However, Smalls was not notified of his exposure until March 28, at which point the quarantine and incubation periods were over. Smalls and the state of New York then sued Amazon for unlawful termination.

As part of the ALU, the JFK8 workers have a more unified voice in opposing Amazon’s current labor restrictions. The ALU has already notified Amazon of its demand for higher wages, and it is possible that the organization will improve employee working conditions as well. Such changes would be welcome: A survey conducted by The New York Committee for Occupational Safety (NYCOSH) found that over 60% of Amazon workers felt pain during working hours, and over 40% continued to feel pain after their shift had ended.[1]

Amazon states that the ALU disrupts “company-employee relationships” and openly disagrees with the vote. The Company claims that the ALU used bribes and even threats to sway the vote in its favor, despite the fact that the halls of the JFK8 facility were dotted with anti-union posters and links to a website with anti-union claims prior to the vote. Smalls says he suspects resistance from Amazon in the future, possibly in the form of a re-vote, though there have been no follow-ups so far.

The vote, which follows the unionization of multiple Starbucks locations in Buffalo, New York, may signify the revitalization of labor unions and better working conditions in general. With the example set by JFK8, Amazon workers across the country hope to see increased wages and better contract protections.

Updates will be posted to this blog as the matter progresses. The legal team at Miller Shah LLP has significant experience representing employment matters. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this post, please contact Jonathan Dilger (jadilger@millershah.com) or Stephen Rutkowski (strutkowski@millershah.com). The firm can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.


[1] Press Release, N.Y. Comm. for Occupational Safety and Health, New NYCOSH Report “Time Off Task” Emphasizes Unhealthy Workplace Practices at Amazon’s State Island Distribution Center (Oct. 17, 2019), https://nycosh.org/2019/10/new-nycosh-report-time-off-task-emphasizes-unhealthy-workplace-practices-at-amazons-staten-island-distribution-center/.

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