The Amazon Labor Union, after making history in April when it won the first-ever unionized Amazon warehouse, JFK8 on Staten Island, New York, was routed in May in a second election at LDJ5, another warehouse in the same complex.
Amazon waged a fierce union-busting campaign, and it worked. Out of 1,633 eligible voters, 998 cast ballots: 380 yes and 618 no. There were no challenged ballots, and two ballots were voided. The ALUâs lawyer, Seth Goldstein, has said the union will challenge the outcome.
Worker organizers faced an uphill battle in replicating their success at the second warehouse because it is relatively new, having opened in 2020, and its workforce is largely part-timers. LDJ5 also had fewer worker organizers than JFK8.
After the JFK8 vote, Amazon fired half a dozen senior managers. The company also fired warehouse workers and ALU organizers Tristan Dutchin and Mat Cusick. The union is launching a campaign to demand their reinstatement and that of other union supporters fired in what the union says is retaliation for their organizing.
Ahead of the vote count, I spoke with organizers Julian Mitchell-Israel, 22, and Madeline Wesley, 23, for In These Times. At the time they were hopeful about the outcome, but acknowledged they were in a tough fight.
âI think that after winning JFK8, some of us thought that LDJ5 would be an easy win,â Wesley said. âAnd what we realized was that we were absolutely wrong.
âAmazon is really angry at us for winning JFK8; they werenât expecting it at all. And now theyâre giving us everything that theyâve got here at LDJ5. They successfully rallied some anti-union workers, so we had to fight a lot of misinformation and rumors and lies.â
Mitchell-Israel said the campaign had lost ground when he and Wesley took three weeks off from their jobs at LBJ5 to help win at JFK8.
âIn that time, Amazon planted a seed of a very deep anti-unionism in a lot of the workers here,â he said. âThey riled up the people that were already against us to be more vocal. So when we came back into the warehouse, although some people were more on our side than ever, a lot of people were more against us than ever. It was one step forward, one step back.â
Nonetheless, Mitchell-Israel said these organizing drives have reinforced in him the lesson that, âwhen it comes to organizing, you have to be vigilantly kind. It takes discipline, and it takes a sort of militancy and love.
âThe one time I snapped during this entire campaign, I said to a worker, âWhy are you bootlicking Jeff Bezos right now?â And I saw the hurt in his eyes after I said that, because I think he was genuinely curious about things and he was genuinely trying to understand.
âI went into my car and I cried after that, because I was saying to myself that that is the mistake that has stopped this movement from happening for so long.
âPeople need to have unlimited chances here. One of my favorite things that one of the other organizers said is that thereâs no such thing as an anti-union workerâthereâs just a misinformed worker. And I think thatâs a fact, because youâre never going to work against yourself.â
This blog originally appeared at Labor Notes on May 13, 2022. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Luis Feliz Leon is a staff writer and organizer with Labor Notes.