The Chicago Journal

Tension Rises Between Amazon and Staten Island Facilities Union

When workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island voted to form a labor union two months ago, it was the first time that any group had been successful in the major corporation. Leaders of this movement have since worked tirelessly towards achieving their mission, visiting Washington D.C. and presenting testimony before a Senate committee.

Chris Smalls is a labor leader and fashion figure who has been recognized by the public for his role in both of those worlds.

The tension between the company and its employees is at an all-time high as several worker-organizers were fired, and the move by Amazon has sparked a heated response from the union.

Two US senators – Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand – have called on Amazon CEO Andy Jassy to acknowledge the union rather than fight it.

Meanwhile, Amazon is contesting the results of their election in response to more than two dozen objects lodged by concerned parties that accused them and their regional office on behalf of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The agency denied the company’s charges against it.

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The Amazon Labor Union announced that they will be traveling to Phoenix, Arizona for a rally calling on the company during a hearing that the company initially requested be held closed to the public but was denied.

The battle to organize Amazon’s warehouse workforce is far from over, but the Staten Island Union victory offers a hopeful sign for organized labor. Other facilities have tried and failed in their bid for recognition before. As a result of the union, Amazon will likely turn to other warehouses instead.

Amazon has been vocal about their opinion that while employees have the freedom to join a union, they prefer communicating directly with workers.

The grassroots union is accused of intimidating employees and leveraging organizing efforts to win the unionization.

The attorney for the union fired back at these objections, calling them “racist and absurd.”

“These objections are insulting to the workers of JFK8 who survived the pandemic and defeated a trillion-dollar company just to see Amazon use their highly-paid lawyers to silence the voices of thousands of their workers,” said union president Chris Smalls.

The Twitter account for the union declared war on Amazon after they fired another worker-organizer.

Kelly Nantel, a spokesperson for Amazon, explained that the employee’s violent workplace behavior was what prompted them to fire him.

Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at Cornell University’s School for Industrial and Labor Relations said that Amazon’s actions are unsurprising. She pointed out they have avoided unionization since long before the turn of this century.

“They’re going to fight to stay non-union for a very long time,” she added. “Until the cost of being non-union becomes greater than the cost of being union, and that’s going to take having their customers, and their investors put a great deal of pressure on them.”

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