The great victory that the US union movement won in April at an Amazon logistics center in Staten Island (New York) has been clouded this Monday with the setback suffered in another nearby warehouse, also belonging to the e-commerce giant. Workers opposed to unionizing have prevailed over those in favor of doing so with a percentage of 62%, with a result of 618 votes against against 380 in favour, according to the calculation of the National Labor Relations Board. The abstention, however, marked the vote: of the 1,600 employees with the right to vote, most of them hired part-time, only a thousand participated.
The victory of the company has not been reflected in the stock market results, however, since Amazon has left 2.7% this Monday, which is added to the loss of 14% on Friday, the auction of a gloomy quarterly balance.
The result is a setback not only for the newly formed Amazon Workers Union (ALU), which emerged from the April vote, but for the union mobilization as a whole, which in the last year has registered a 60 % more activity than in 2021, judging by the requests to hold union elections processed until March. In a situation of imbalance in the labor market, with more supply than demand —especially in poorly paid positions—, and under the presidency more pro-union In recent decades, that of Democrat Joe Biden, workers in the service sector —not only blue-collar workers, but also liberal professionals, in architecture firms or major media outlets— have given a decisive boost to the role of unions, when membership in they register a historical minimum in the private sector, barely 11% of the active population.
The momentum of the Amazon workers has traveled a path fraught with obstacles in the last year. In April 2021, warehouse employees in Alabama refused to organize under the umbrella of the majority trade organization. The labor relations board ordered a repeat vote due to the company’s interference in the process, with a profusion of messages to employees about the inconvenience to get organized. The April vote in the large Staten Island logistics center was a boost, especially for the constitution of its own union, but the rejection of the nearby warehouse – it is at the other end of the street – could mark, according to experts, a decline or at least a slowdown to the mobilization.
The difference between the JFK8 center, as the giant logistics center that voted to unionize is known, and the smaller warehouse that has refused to do so may lie in the different working conditions of the workers: there are a majority of full-time employees in the JFK8, facing more precarious, part-time contracts, in the other.
Amazon is not the only large American company to watch, stunned, as union consciousness awakens. The Starbucks coffee chain, which last December scored its first symbolic victory in Buffalo (New York), has registered more than 250 votes in as many places in the country, as has the sports equipment firm REI, both with one characteristic: the hiring of young people with more training for non-professional jobs, such as barista or salesman, often temporary jobs until they find another one according to their training. Amazon, however, is the true laboratory: not only because it is the second largest employer in the country, after the distribution giant Walmart, but also because of the quality of the work itself and the contractual relationship with the base of its workforce.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
Until the launch of ALU in April, Amazon had managed to stop unionization attempts since its inception in 1994. Following its success, ALU generated overwhelming enthusiasm, to the point that its managers claim to have been contacted by warehouse representatives around the world. the country. But the rejection of LDJ5, as the warehouse that has refused to unionize in Staten Island is known, tarnishes what until now seemed like an unstoppable race that, however, has had to face new obstacles: after the April vote, Amazon filed an appeal appeal, arguing that ALU members had “intimidated” the employees. The company also accused the Labor Relations Board branch in New York, responsible for overseeing the process, of bias. The case has been transferred to the Phoenix delegation, which will rule on the legitimacy of the vote at the end of May.
Subscribe here to the EL PAÍS América newsletter and receive all the key information on current affairs in the region.