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Amazon’s Staten Island Warehouse Workers File to Hold Union Election

Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse, a covid and labor flashpoint throughout the pandemic, might soon be subject to union rules if labor activists have their way.

Chris Smalls, the so-called JFK8 facility’s terminated whistleblower and now Amazon Labor Union president, successfully lodged a petition to hold a union vote with the National Labor Relations Board, which has been busy monitoring Southern California’s backlogged ports and a previous unionization attempt at an Amazon Alabama warehouse.

Should workers cast enough ballots to unionize, the organized labor rules would apply to JFK8’s hourly full-time and regular part-time fulfillment associates, including process assistants, sortation associates and transportation associates, according to documents dated Monday.

A hearing is set for Nov. 15 unless Amazon and the petitioner mutually agree to hold an election. Amazon is required to make facility employees aware of the upcoming vote by posting official NLRB-sanctioned notice in “conspicuous places” by Nov. 1, the board noted.

Amazon, however, questioned whether the Smalls-led contingent actually gathered enough John Hancocks to move forward to the ballot box.

“We’re skeptical that a sufficient number of legitimate employee signatures has been secured to warrant an election,” said Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel, though Smalls confirmed that the petition garnered “over 2,000” names “and we’re going to continue getting more.”

“If there is an election, we want the voice of our employees to be heard and look forward to it,” said Nantel, adding that focus of the company, which has five days to respond to the petition, “remains on listening directly to our employees and continuously improving on their behalf.”

Chris Smalls at the Amazon Labor Union Press Conference And Rally in Staten Island, New York City on August 11, 2021.
Chris Smalls at the Amazon Labor Union press conference and rally in Staten Island, New York City, on Aug. 11, 2021. Rainmaker Photos/MediaPunch /IPX

The union effort comes as the Seattle tech giant faces renewed calls to split after longtime critic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took to Twitter earlier this month to decry “Amazon’s monopoly power” and its willingness to “rig its platform” in its favor.

What’s more, recent California legislation takes aim at Amazon’s controversial warehouse strategy. Assembly Bill 701 regulates so-called “speed quotas” measuring employee productivity and instead ensures that warehouse workers receive state-mandated meal times, restroom breaks, and time to perform safety protocols.

Amazon warehouse facilities have been also fined and shut down over Covid-19 outbreaks, illustrating the difficulties it has faced in maintaining a safe, virus-free workplace.