Amazon workers in New York will go to the polls again as labor activists push to unionize a second facility in the US following their surprise recent victory over the tech giant.
About 1,500 eligible workers at an LDJ5 Amazon sorting center in Staten Island, New York, begin voting in a union election on Monday, in a process that will continue through 29 April. Ballot-counting starts on 2 May.
Amazon has aggressively opposed unionization among its workforce, which totals about 1.1 million people in the US alone. The fight comes as workers at other major corporations including Starbucks are fighting to unionize.
Amazon has spent millions hiring union avoidance consultants. Amazon Labor Union (ALU) organizers have alleged harassment and intimidation from management.
The company is vigorously contesting its first loss and has accused ALU of using “objectionable, coercive, and misleading behavior”, to convince workers to support them. Among other objections, Amazon claims the vote should be overturned because ALU “intentionally created hostile confrontations” and offered marijuana to workers in an “impermissible grant of support” for workers’ votes, according to filings obtained by the New York Times.
The sorting center is right across the street from the JFK8 warehouse where workers won a historic first union election at Amazon in the US on 1 April.
It is the second union election petition filed by the ALU, an independent group of current and former Amazon workers with no affiliation with established labor unions and led by the former Amazon worker Chris Smalls.
Since the union’s election win at JFK8, ALU has received inquiries from workers at dozens of Amazon facilities around the US and internationally about forming unions at their respective facilities and received over $300,000 in donations to the union’s GoFundMe page.
Ahead of the election, ALU hosted a rally featuring speeches from Senator Bernie Sanders and union leaders, including the AFA-CWA international president, Sara Nelson, and Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union.
ALU organizers who work at LDJ5 have said they experienced similar anti-union efforts by Amazon, and have filed multiple unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board.
“This employer has been engaging in sustained unlawful union busting. Amazon has violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by forcing employees to attend captive audience meetings, disciplining organizers for protected union activities, and prohibiting the union from displaying its banner in the break rooms,” said Seth Goldstein, a pro bono attorney representing the ALU.
The union has joined with the American Federation of Teachers and New York State United Teachers in filing a complaint with the New York state attorney general, Letitia James, alleging that Amazon’s anti-union efforts are in violation of the provisions of the New York state Excelsior Jobs Program, and pushing for Amazon to pay back $400m in tax breaks they received through the program.