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Amazon employee group wants workers to vote on unionization

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A group of employees formed by warehouse workers on Staten Island, New York, has announced a goal to vote for the union. This is the latest trade unionization effort by one of the largest employers in the United States.

An independent group of Amazon employees, called the Amazon Trade Union, will submit to the National Labor Relations Board on October 25 for elections. According to a statement from the group, the organization has more than 2,000 workers across four Amazon facilities on Staten Island.

The group is headed by Chris Smalls, a former Amazon employee who was dismissed from the company last year.

“Workers are calling on Amazon to end the practice of union-crushing and give workers access to the right to organize for collective bargaining,” the Amazon trade union said in a statement. The group wants to achieve higher wages, create safer working conditions and increase paid vacation, break and medical leave options, among other goals.

Workers are demanding more From employers across the United States as companies suffer from labor shortages and supply chain disruptions. Union officials said workers were motivated by prolonged frustration with concerns about their time, wages and health, especially for those working at the forefront of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In order for the group to participate in the election, the petitioner typically needs to collect the signatures of the proposed bargaining unit, in this case at least 30% of the employees of the four Amazon facilities. According to Rebecca Giban, a labor professor at Rutgers University, the NLRB will determine if the proposed units are suitable for joint elections or if each facility needs to vote independently.

Since then, Smalls has been trying to organize Amazon employees. Lead the strike last year At the company’s JFK8 facility on Staten Island, they protested working conditions during a pandemic.

Amazon then said Mr Smalls violated the company’s policies, including measures for social distance. A few months ago, he launched a campaign outside the facility and founded the Amazon Trade Union. He said it operates as a worker-led, independent union.

Earlier this year, about 71% of workers at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama, voted against participation in retail, wholesale, and department store unions (RWDSU). Vote against unionization..

The election could go to vote after federal labor authorities discovered in August that Amazon violated labor laws during the election process, Amazon denied. In addition, Amazon is facing a union push by the Canadian arm of Team Stars.

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“Bessemer was a motivation,” Smalls said in an interview. “They showed us a blueprint for how to vote.”

Smalls’ group is facing obstacles. Even if workers win the election, Amazon can legally use many tactics to discourage unionization. During the Bessemer campaign, the company met regularly with workers in the facility to persuade them to vote against the union.

By campaigning independently, Mr. Smalls may lack the financial resources and expertise that Bessemer workers received from RWDSU to take over Amazon, the second largest private employer in the United States. The Amazon Trade Union is primarily funded by a GoFundMe account that raised about $ 20,500 as of Wednesday.

Amazon has long opposed unionization. In the United States, company employees are not affiliated with the union, and Amazon says it already provides the benefits the union seeks and prefers to negotiate directly with workers.

Last month, Amazon 2 former staff He said tech companies fired them after they criticized climate policy and the handling of warehouse safety.

Amazon states that employees were not fired for talking about working conditions and safety, but for repeatedly violating internal policies. The company settled with two employees before meeting them in a hearing conducted by the NLRB.

Democratic Governor of California Gavin Christopher recently signed a new law requiring Amazon and other businesses Disclose quota It prohibits other requirements in the workplace and the enforcement of assignments and penalties that affect the safety and well-being of employees.

After years of criticism, Amazon has sought ways to reduce worker injuries. Warehouse safety conditions.. Some of these efforts focus on educating employees about physical dynamics and relaxing some policies related to work assignments.

Write in Sebastian Elera Sebastian.Herrera@wsj.com And Jennifer Calfas Jennifer.Calfas@wsj.com

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Amazon employee group wants workers to vote on unionization

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