Amazon Workers Begin Voting on Union at Another Staten Island Facility

About 1,500 workers at an Amazon sorting center on Staten Island will be eligible to vote in an election this week that could produce a second union at the company in the United States.

This month, an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island with more than 8,000 workers became the first location to vote to unionize, favoring the union by a margin of more than 10 percentage points, though Amazon is seeking to overturn the result.

If the workers at the smaller facility, known as LDJ5, vote to unionize, they will join the Amazon Labor Union, the same independent, worker-led union that has succeeded at the warehouse. The votes will begin on Monday, May 2.

Speaking at a rally outside the facility on Sunday, Madeline Wesley, the treasurer of the Amazon Labor Union, said a union was necessary because part-time workers, who relied heavily on the facility, could not get enough hours to support themselves.

The hours are “not based on what workers want or need,” said Ms. Wesley, who works at LDJ5. “It’s based off of what Amazon has figured out to be the most efficient at the expense of the workers.”

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the workers’ complaints about scheduling.

In an interview at the rally, Ms. Wesley said the union was expected to have an easier time organizing LDJ5 after its victory at the warehouse but that Amazon had been aggressively persuading workers to vote no.

Although the union’s prospects “looked bleak a couple of weeks ago, no one gave up,” Ms. Wesley said. “They persevered and kept talking to their co-workers. The vibe has changed significantly in the building. I think we got a good shot at it. “

But the union faces obstacles in the election, including the time it has been organizing workers at the sorting center and the fact that most of the group’s top officials and organizers work at a larger facility, known as JFK8, giving them less direct access. to workers at LDJ5.

Many unions also find it more difficult to organize workplaces with a large proportion of part-time workers, who can be less invested in organizing campaigns.

Workers who will trek to the sorting center for a four-hour shift, often traveling 30 to 60 minutes each way, tend to “be a special group of people who are really struggling to make it,” said Gene Bruskin, a longtime worker. Organizer who has advised the Amazon Labor Union in two Staten Island elections.

Mr. Bruskin, who is known for overseeing a successful campaign at a massive Smithfield meat-processing plant in 2008, added: “When you have that kind of work force, it’s really tough. You have a lot of people who might have more attitude, ‘It’s just a part-time gig, I’m not staying here.’ It ‘sa uphill fight. “

Mr. Bruskin and other labor officials have been working to help overcome these challenges by enlisting help from organizers from other unions, who have pitched in making phone calls, planning meetings with workers and talking employees out of the facility.

Uriel Concepción, who works four-hour shifts at the facility, said in an interview Sunday that a union would improve working conditions there. Mr. Concepción said that 16 hours per week was not enough to pay the bills at home, where he lives with his parents, but that Amazon never allowed his repeated requests for full-time work.

Eric Barrios, another worker at the facility, said in an interview that he was undecided about whether to support the union. Mr. Barrios said he, too, was working 16 hours per week and had been unable to get more hours, but he was worried that some of the union’s goals were unrealistic.

“Certain things they are saying are far-fetched, like, for example, a $ 30-an-hour pay,” Mr. Barrios said at the rally on Sunday. “I’m here to see if I get swayed.”

The rally appeared to attract a crowd of more than 100, though many of those attending didn’t work at the facility.

Still, the momentum of the victory this month appears to have prompted more shows to support the union campaign among outsiders. Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, and Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, appeared on the rally on Sunday afternoon.

“I’m seriously inspired,” Ms. Nelson told those in attendance, adding, “This union is the answer to my prayers.”

On Sunday morning, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, appeared at the site as well.

“I’m going to show support to Staten Island for the incredible courage of the Amazon workers who are up and defeated in one of the largest corporations in America,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview Friday.

He also called on President Biden to take a more active role in supporting union campaigns at Amazon and other companies, such as Starbucks, where more than 20 stores have been unionized since December.

“I made a suggestion to the White House – why don’t you have a meeting with some of the organizers who are active now?” Mr. Sanders said. “Bring in an organizer from Starbucks, Amazon, from the other unions that are organizing. Listen to them, learn from them, ask them what they want, how the White House can be supportive. “

The 1.3 million member International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has committed itself to unionizing Amazon, looms large in the broader organizing campaign at the company because of its wide reach and resources. Sean O’Brien, president of the Teamsters, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars talking about the effort.

Mr. O’Brien and Christian Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union, met this month To discuss how the Teamsters could support the Amazon workers in securing a contract with Amazon, according to the Teamsters.

Another union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, appeared to narrowly lose a vote at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama when the votes were counted in late March. But the margin was smaller than the number of challenged ballots, leaving the result uncertain.

Karen Weise contributed reporting.

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