After win, then loss, at NY warehouses, Amazon workers press fight for union

By Seth Galinsky
May 23, 2022

NEW YORK — “We’re still at the beginning of the fight for the union,” Chris Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union, told the Militant May 9. The union won the vote for recognition at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island by 2,654 to 2,131 in early April, a vote challenged by Amazon bosses, but lost the vote at the nearby, smaller LDJ5 sort center by 618 to 380 a month later.

Amazon spent millions of dollars trying to defeat the union at both facilities. After losing the vote at JFK8, bosses stepped up their “captive audience” meetings across the street, where they presented anti-union propaganda and pressured workers to vote no, without any opportunity for union supporters to respond. They also brought in more anti-union “consultants” at $400 an hour.

When asked via email why the company does not allow the union viewpoint to be presented at the mandatory meetings, Amazon spokesperson Barbara Agrait told the Militant, “If the union vote passes, it will impact everyone at the site.”

Smalls says the union is going to “make sure that we keep our stronghold at JFK8,” after the vote at LDJ5.

That is going to be a fight.

Amazon bosses have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board raising 25 objections to the union win at JFK8, urging the NLRB to overturn the vote. Amazon got the government agency to move the hearing for its challenge from New York to Arizona, claiming NRLB Region 29 officials “gave the appearance of support” to the union. The hearing is set for June 13.

At the beginning of May Amazon fired two workers active in fighting for the union, Tristan Dutchin and Mat Cusick. Dutchin told the press Amazon said he failed to make productivity goals, which require workers pick hundreds of packages per hour.

Many workers have told Militant reporters the work pace at the Staten Island warehouses is grueling and they lack adequate breaks. These conditions help ensure turnover is 150% a year.

“Individual performance metrics are a key business tool,” Amazon spokesperson Agrait said.