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The Amazon Labor Union

The Amazon Labor Union
April 11, 2022

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Last week, the Amazon Labor Union, or ALU, won the vote to represent Staten Island's JFK8 fulfillment center employees. The stunning upset was a first for Amazon employees in the U.S. after a second failed attempt in Alabama on March 31st. The vote defied odds, not only of a well-funded anti-union message by the major e-retailer but for its humble beginnings as an independent movement planned by former and current warehouse workers rather than an established union.

David vs. Goliath
Amazon's in-house legal team thoroughly underestimated the resolve of the ALU, calling one of the leaders, Chris Smalls, "not smart, or articulate." That leaked email became a rallying cry for the workers who promoted their cause on TikTok and Twitter.

It turns out that an outsider's perspective on the traditional union vs. corporation dance became an asset. According to Gerald Bryson, another central figure in the win, "people think the way to attack them is head-on, but, no, you have to come at them 'awkward,' with things they'd never expect." 

Amazon spent $4.3MM last year on anti-union consultants. This loss will pave the way for other facilities to add their own names to the newly formed union, which utilizes advisors from existing unions, "salts" (employees who got hired for the express purpose of organizing), and donations from supporters. Plans for higher wages, paid sick leave, and 20-minute breaks are just jumping-off points for the group.

Meanwhile, Starbucks employees in New York led the way for over 150 other stores to consider unionization. Uber is another. Amazon is already on the attack, alleging the ALU coerced votes.

Stay tuned for further updates as factors including the Great Resignation, employee burnout, and the COVID-19 wakeup call contribute to the U.S. labor movement's reinvigoration.

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