Portland News

Gap Between Amazon and Its Union Continues to Widen

Tensions continue to rise after Amazon's first union organized in Staten Island
Tensions continue to rise after Amazon's first union organized in Staten Island

Two months ago, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island voted to successfully form the company’s first-ever labor union. Since then leaders have worked hard for their mission, visiting Washington D.C. and testifying before a Senate committee.

The public has recognized Chris Smalls for his role as a labor leader and fashion figure; he was previously an Amazon worker but took on new responsibilities in the union presidency.

The news of the firing of worker-organizers has left many within the union in an uproar.

Amazon is fighting to get the election results thrown out following more than two dozen objects that concerned their alleged behavior. The company denied these charges, but it appears as though this may be an uphill battle for them now with the National Labor Relations Board regional office denying all of Amazon’s charges against it.

The Amazon Labor Union is planning to travel from their home base in Arizona for a hearing on Monday. The company didn’t want the public allowed into these hearings, but so far have been denied by the federal labor agency.

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The Staten Island facility is not the only one to face a labor struggle. Other locations have attempted and failed at organizing elections, but this time around Amazon may have been caught off guard by their surprise win in such an intense fight against them.

Amazon’s CEO, Andy Jassy has consistently stressed that he believes his workers are better off without a union. He says this because Amazon can communicate directly with them.

The company filed several unfair labor practices against the NLRB, claiming that their regional office worked unfairly to facilitate a victory for grassroots unionization.

The attorney for the union called objections from employees “racist,” and said they lacked any grounds.

“These objections are insulting to the workers of JFK8 who survived the pandemic and defeated a trillion-dollar company just to see Amazon use their highly-paid lawyers to silence the voices of thousands of their workers,” said union president Chris Smalls.

When news broke out that Amazon fired another worker-organizer, the union wasted no time in responding on Twitter.

The Amazon spokesperson said that the employee’s violent workplace behavior was what led them to fire them.

Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at Cornell University’s School for Industrial and Labor Relations said that Amazon’s avoidance tactics are not surprising given the company has avoided unions since its inception.

“They’re going to fight to stay non-union for a very long time,” she added. “Until the cost of being non-union becomes greater than the cost of being union, and that’s going to take having their customers, and their investors put a great deal of pressure on them.”

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Opinions expressed by Portland News contributors are their own.