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Amazon seeks to overturn historic Staten Island union victory at labor hearing

The National Labor Relations Board is holding a hearing to consider Amazon's objections to the union election at a warehouse on Staten Island. Amazon is seeking a new election.
Johannes Eisele
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AFP via Getty Images
The National Labor Relations Board is holding a hearing to consider Amazon's objections to the union election at a warehouse on Staten Island. Amazon is seeking a new election.

A hearing is underway to consider whether the Amazon Labor Union's historic union victory on Staten Island should stand — or whether a re-do election is warranted.

This spring, workers at the largest Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, employing more than 8,000 workers, voted 2,654 to 2,131 to join the Amazon Labor Union, a scrappy, grassroots organization founded by current and former Amazon warehouse workers.

Just a week after ballots were tallied on April 1, Amazon filed 25 objections to the election. Among its complaints, the company says the National Labor Relations Board's regional office in Brooklyn, which oversaw the election, favored the union and facilitated its victory.

The company also raised objections to some of the Amazon Labor Union's actions, charging that organizers harassed and threatened employees who weren't supporting the union, including suggesting they may lose their benefits if they didn't back the union. Amazon also charges that union organizers handed out marijuana to workers in return for their support. In fact, union leaders have spoken openly about providing workers with marijuana, but not as a bribe.

Amazon Labor Union president Chris Smalls (left) celebrates with Amazon workers following the April 1, 2022, tally of votes in the union election at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island in New York.
Andrea Renault / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Amazon Labor Union president Chris Smalls (left) celebrates with Amazon workers following the April 1, 2022, tally of votes in the union election at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island in New York.

Because the NLRB regional office in Brooklyn was named in Amazon's filing, the case was moved out of the region per standard protocol. The NLRB says its regional office in Phoenix was chosen because it had capacity to take the case on. The hearing is expected to last several days and is being live-streamed on Zoom.

Amazon is asking the NLRB for a do-over election, calling the actions of the NLRB's Brooklyn office and the Amazon Labor Union "substantially more egregious than the installation of a mailbox," referring to events in the Amazon union saga in Bessemer, Alabama.

In that election, held in early 2021, warehouse workers voted by more than 2 to 1 against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, but those results were thrown out and a new election was ordered after the NLRB found that Amazon had improperly interfered in the election by having a mailbox installed outside the warehouse.

A do-over election at the Bessemer warehouse took place earlier this year, but the results were too close to call. Both sides — Amazon and the union — have filed objections to that election.

In late April, the Amazon Labor Union lost its second union election on Staten Island, but vowed to continue its push to unionize warehouse workers across the country.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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