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The New York Times reports that hourly workers at Amazon’s JFK8 fulfillment center in New York City are gathering signatures to file for a union election and are expected to contact the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Monday.
It’s the second unionization attempt this year, following the vote at Amazon’s BHM1 fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama this past April. The vote attracted national attention and was ultimately decided in favor of the online retail giant, with approximately 1,700 of the company’s 3,000 workers standing against unionization. But the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union accused Amazon of unfairly influencing the vote, and in August, the NLRB ruled that Amazon had violated U.S. labor laws and suggested Bessemer workers call a new vote.
The efforts in Alabama were spearheaded by a national retail workers union while the one in New York is being driven by current and former Amazon employees, led by Christian Smalls, who want to create a new independent union known as the Amazon Labor Union.
Over 5,000 employees work at Amazon’s JFK8 center, where multiple protests surrounding the company’s lacking Covid-19 safety procedures have been held since the beginning of the pandemic. Amazon fired Smalls after he led a walkout, claiming he’d violated a quarantine order by taking part in the event. The state of New York sued Amazon, alleging retaliation against Smalls.
But the corporation continues to stand firmly against the unionization of its employees, deploying a range of tactics to keep it at bay: from offering competitive wages to airing anti-union ads on Twitch.
Amazon has 1.3 million employees and aims to hire 300,000 seasonal and permanent hourly workers in the U.S. this fall. Although the company has increased wages, it has a massive turnover rate that posed a threat to continued growth even prior to the pandemic.
Amazon isn’t the only company confronted with pandemic-exacerbated employee strikes. Workers at John Deere and at the plants that make Oreos and Kellogg cereals have gone on strike, and employees at some Starbucks locations have also filed to form a union.