Staten Island Amazon unionization effort at second warehouse fails

Caryl Anne Francia, Business Editor

The push to unionize by warehouse employees for Inc. suffered a surprising blow when a union vote at a Staten Island fulfillment center failed on May 2. This happened just weeks after another warehouse in the borough held a historic vote that resulted in the company’s first union in the United States.

It was announced in March that the LDJ5 warehouse would hold a union vote, starting on April 25.

The election resulted in a 618-240 vote that is heavily against unionization on May 2, according to the National Labor Relations Board. It also reported that 1,163 employees were eligible to vote.

Some employees expressed doubts on the union’s ability to meet its promises, such as ensuring job security, a $30 minimum hourly wage and longer work breaks.

“Some of them are young — I don’t think they even know what a union is,” Michael Aguilar, an employee at LDJ5 who heard reasons from co-workers why they voted no, told The New York Times. “I believe they thought Amazon was just a steppingstone, and then collect money from this place and then go into their own careers. They didn’t understand why they would want it if it’s just temporary to them.”

This might be a sign of Amazon stepping up its union-busting game, in light of the grassroots funded Amazon Labor Union succeeding in one election. The company reportedly increased wages and heavily invested in anti-union campaigns.

JFK8, a larger warehouse in the borough, successfully pushed to form the company’s first union in the U.S., following an election that ran from March 25 to March 30. It resulted in a 2,6542,131 vote out of the 8,375 eligible voters, according to the NLRB.

The effort to unionize within Amazon started there after employee Christian Smalls was fired for raising concerns about health and safety conditions in March 2020, when the first COVID-19 cases were being reported in New York. Smalls organized the Amazon Labor Union group a year later.

“Despite today’s outcome I’m proud of the worker/organizers of LDJ5 they had a tougher challenge after our victory at JFK8,” Smalls tweeted. “Our leads should be extremely proud to have given their coworkers a right to join a Union @amazonlabor will continue to organize and so should all of you.”

Amazon is currently trying to overturn the election result at the JFK8 facility, and the NLRB will allow hearings starting May 23.

“We’re pleased the NLRB granted the hearing and we look forward to that next step,” Kelly Nantel, a spokesperson for Amazon, said, according to Yahoo News.

An unionization effort in Bessemer, Alabama was the first to fail, though it was determined that Amazon unlawfully interfered with the election there.

Despite the blow to the ALU’s effort, this will not be its last attempt to unionize in the tri-state area as a warehouse in New Jersey filed papers to hold a vote in April.