Roughly 5,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island will begin voting on whether they want to form a union, starting on March 25th, union organizers said Wednesday.
The union election for all full and regularly-scheduled part-time employees of the JFK8 fulfillment center will be conducted in person in a tent outside the warehouse and run through March 30th, organizers said on Twitter.
Smalls said organizers had pushed for voting to take place in a tent adjacent to the Amazon compound, but not inside of it as the company had wanted. The company has a history of aggressive tactics when it comes to workers organizing here and throughout the U.S. but the effort to unionize has continued apace: The second of four warehouses on the Staten Island compound submitted petitions requesting a union vote earlier this month.
Smalls said they pushed for in-person voting after Amazon was found to have interfered with a mail-in vote at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama last year.
Elliot Becker, a spokesperson for the National Labor Relations Board confirmed Amazon and labor organizers had reached an agreement but declined to give further specifics right away.
Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson also confirmed the vote, but reiterated the company’s stance that organizers did not have sufficient support among the workers.
“We remain skeptical that there are a sufficient number of legitimate signatures to support this election petition. But since the NLRB has decided the election will proceed, we want our employees to have their voices heard as soon as possible,” she said in a written statement. “Our employees have always had a choice of whether or not to join a union, and our focus remains on working directly with our team to make Amazon a great place to work.”
Despite the company’s statements of support, less than three hours after the election date had been set, organizers said employees at the JFK8 warehouse received robotexts warning them to vote ‘No” in the upcoming elections.
“We encourage every eligible associate at JFK8 to vote in the election, make your voice heard, and vote NO,” the message, posted to Twitter by Smalls, read.
“They ain’t wasting no time,” Smalls said.
Nantel declined to comment on the robotext but said that allegations of anti-union behavior by the company were false.
Unionization efforts at the Staten Island compound are two years in the making. Employees first staged a walk-out at the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic to protest unsafe working conditions. Smalls was one of the ringleaders of the walkout and he was fired hours later after.
Workers at JFK8 first submitted petitions calling for a union vote last October but later withdrew them. On January 26, the NLRB found workers had submitted enough petitions to merit a union vote after organizers sent them in for a second time, clearing the way for the upcoming vote in March.
The second of four warehouses on the Staten Island compound LDJ5, followed JFK8’s lead earlier this month and submitted petitions requesting a union vote. Parties are due to appear before the National Labor Relations Board on March 7 for a preliminary hearing regarding the potential of a union election there. The NLRB still has to certify those petitions before that vote can move ahead.
Workers on Staten Island say they’ve encountered the same types of aggressive anti-union behavior Amazon has used to block unionization efforts across the county. They’ve filed more than two dozen charges with the NLRB alleging Amazon’s violations of labor law including firing union organizers, confiscating union literature and surveilling employees among other charges, records show.
“These allegations are false and we look forward to showing that through this process," Nantel said.
Amazon now faces multiple union elections at once. Voting is currently open for Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama for a second time. The National Labor Relations Board found the company had interfered with the first election last summer by installing a mailbox outside the warehouse and distributing anti-union literature. Polls in that election close at the end of March.