Amazon filed objections to Staten Island union vote

Amazon tipped its hand this week on how it plans to try to defeat a successful union vote at its Staten Island warehouse.

The e-commerce giant filed a list of objections to the election with the National Labor Relations Board on Friday, largely challenging the actions of the federal agency itself.

The company alleged that the agency’s Brooklyn-based regional office “gave the impression” that it supported the union by filing a lawsuit against Amazon ahead of the vote. Amazon also alleged that the NLRB delayed the investigation into “unfounded” unfair labor practice charges and was understaffed for the election.

Amazon also alleges that the independent Amazon Labor Union harassed employees who did not support the union, trespassed on Amazon property, and “misled employees by telling them that they would lose their benefits if they did not didn’t support the ALU,” among other issues.

Amazon’s decision comes after a monumental vote last week when thousands of Staten Island warehouse workers voted to join the union, marking the first successful vote to unionize an Amazon warehouse in the United States. It was led by the independent Amazon Labor Union, an upstart effort with no formal ties to national labor organizations, and led by current and former Amazon workers, who staged the landslide victory.

Now, Amazon is rolling out its plan to respond to the election results, starting with its objections. Labor lawyers say the company, which strongly opposes unionization, could try to delay the process of forming a union for years.

“Amazon probably thinks it has nothing to lose by exhausting all possible appeals because time is on its side,” said John Logan, director of the labor and employment studies department. at San Francisco State University.

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The NLRB on Thursday granted Amazon’s request for an extension and gave the company until April 22 to file evidence of the objections. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in a statement that the company believes the election should be rerun because the NLRB and Amazon Labor Union “unduly suppressed and influenced the vote.”

“We’ve always said we want our employees to have their voices heard, and in this case that didn’t happen – less than a third of site employees voted for the union, and the overall turnout has been exceptionally low,” she said.

On Friday, the NLRB repeated its statement it released last week.

“The NLRB is an independent federal agency appointed by Congress to enforce the National Labor Relations Act,” spokeswoman Kayla Blado said. “All of the NLRB’s enforcement actions against Amazon have been consistent with this congressional mandate.”

An Amazon Labor Union representative said none of Amazon’s objections were valid and called them a tactic to delay the union.

“This is a blatant attempt by Amazon to interfere and circumvent the democratic choice of its workforce,” said Connor Spence, worker and union organizer at Amazon. “If they were really striving to be ‘the best employer on Earth,’ they wouldn’t be engaging in this kind of behavior.”

The NLRB will need to certify the vote before the union can attempt to negotiate a contract with Amazon. Objections could delay or even cancel this process, depending on what the NLRB decides. Amazon has many ways to fight the results of the vote, including refusing to negotiate and forcing regulators to get involved.

Amazon has faced increased pressure since the start of the pandemic from workers pushing for better pay, safer working conditions and less oversight at its network of warehouses across the country. Workers in Staten Island and Bessemer, Alabama, began the early stages of organizing during the early months of the pandemic, when employees feared the company wasn’t doing enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus in communities. facilities.

In Alabama, workers joined the national retail, wholesale and department store union and held an election last year. The union was voted down by a wide margin, but the NLRB later called a new election after finding Amazon had intervened improperly. The second vote was counted last month, and it remains too close to be called as parties consider disputed ballots and objections.

The union and Amazon filed objections in Alabama this week.

In the New York election, Amazon’s objections include an allegation that the NLRB improperly helped the union meet the required threshold of employee signatures to run for the vote. The agency did so by removing more than 1,500 employees from the list of eligible workers, Amazon alleged.

“The Region’s willingness to bend its rules gave a false air of legitimacy to the Union and constituted obvious and inappropriate aid to the ALU,” Amazon wrote in its filing.

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The company also alleged that the NLRB told employees to cover their shirts that read “Vote No” but let voters wear Amazon Labor Union clothing. Amazon said the NLRB should have more vetted members of the media near polling places because workers might have been discouraged from voting. And the company denounced the Amazon Labor Union’s practice of distributing marijuana to workers, saying the NLRB “cannot condone such a practice as a legitimate method of gaining support for a labor organization.” .

Organizing in Staten Island began two years ago when Chris Smalls, a laid-off warehouse worker, began rallying workers and later helped form the Amazon Labor Union last year. Smalls said the union was stronger as an independent organization run by workers with an insider’s view.

Amazon has strongly opposed unionization at its facilities and has hired consultants, printed posters, and held mandatory classes for workers to discourage them from voting to unionize. Those courts, called “captive hearing meetings,” could soon be on the chopping block after NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said in a memo this week that she would ask the board to consider making courts a violation of national labor relations law.

The agency will hold a hearing to consider Amazon’s objections to Staten Island once all the evidence is gathered.

Amazon opposed a lawsuit filed by the NLRB against the company ahead of the vote, which asked a court to order Amazon to reinstate a fired worker.

Amazon said it fired the employee because he allegedly bullied and defamed a co-worker during a filmed altercation. In a summary to the administrative judge, the NLRB lawyer wrote that the reason Amazon fired the worker was “mere pretense” and that he was in fact fired for organizing protests against Amazon’s working conditions.

Amazon alluded to the lawsuit in its post-election statement last week, saying it was considering filing objections related to what it called “inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB.”

Meet Chris Smalls, the man who organized Amazon workers in New York

Nantel, Amazon’s spokeswoman, said at the time that it was “interesting that the NLRB is pursuing an ’emergency injunction’ just before an election when they have known the facts in this case for more than 18 months”.

The case had been making its way through the NLRB’s administrative court system for nearly two years.

The NLRB defended the agency’s role in the conduct of Staten Island’s election last week. “The NLRB is an independent federal agency appointed by Congress to enforce national labor relations law,” Blado said in response to Amazon’s statement.


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