ANALYSIS-Big win at Amazon promises unions – but no end to challenges


By Jeffrey Dastin, Danielle Kaye and Julia Love

April 1 (Reuters) – A vote from Amazon workers organizing their warehouse in New York surprised and inspired longtime union supporters, for whom a new reality is setting in: it is possible, even if it won’t be easy.

On Friday, news of America’s first-ever union joining the nation’s second-largest private employer ricocheted among labor groups as they began to see the way forward to organize workers and end decades of contraction in their ranks.

Amazon now seems a more manageable target for them, although still a difficult one. Some 55% of votes cast at the Staten Island plant were for the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), a new group led by the online retailer’s former employee Christian Smalls.

The company said it could file objections, and if and when ALU’s victory is finalized, it still has to win a contract.

It can be as difficult as winning an election, said Gregory DeFreitas, professor of labor economics at Hofstra University.

Amazon spent more than $4 million on labor consultants in 2021 to try to influence workers, according to a government filing.

“Amazon has enormous resources to fight unions and a tremendous determination to do whatever it takes to remain union-free,” said John Logan, a professor at San Francisco State University who studies anti-union actions.

Duplicating Amazon’s success could be difficult. Local knowledge and warehouse experience helped ALU leaders, who at times distanced their work from that of national task forces.

“Leaders that workers know and trust – that’s what wins,” said Burt Flickinger, chief executive of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group, which has advised some unions on organizing ‘Amazon. Flickinger said he expects union efforts to focus on more Amazon-owned warehouses and Whole Foods stores, adding that unions should replenish depleted bank accounts to organize.

New York’s win builds on several recent ones at Starbucks
Coffees. It also helps to give the impression that the labor movement is changing. The ALU has implemented innovative organizing tactics, building momentum through social media, said Joshua Freeman, professor of history at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.

The ALU raised funds through a GoFundMe account.

At the same time, mainstream unions are reaching out to help ALU leader Smalls. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is offering “all possible support”, said its president, Mary Kay Henry.

‘SPREAD LIKE FIRE’

The reinvigorated focus was palpable among union leaders on Friday.

The Teamsters, a bitter opponent of Amazon for years that had yet to unionize any of its U.S. locations, continues to fight its fight “in the shops, at the bargaining table and on the streets,” said General Chairman Sean O’Brien. after the victory of the ALU.

People were screaming and jumping for joy in front of the SEIU national offices.

β€œIt will spread like wildfire,” Henry said in an interview. “It’s a huge inspiration to the workers who are fighting against the Big Five in the airline industry, the workers who are fighting against Starbucks.”

Although not yet final, a losing union vote at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, has some fearing that the ALU’s victory could only come in a pro-worker state like New York. It’s not, said Logan, the work’s professor.

The next battle will take place in Staten Island this month at a second Amazon location, but some of the company’s grocers are organizing in Seattle, as are employees or contractors elsewhere.

“All of a sudden it doesn’t seem so futile anymore to try to form a union at Amazon,” Logan said, adding, “If you can win at Amazon, you can win anywhere.”

NEWSMAKER-Amazon Smalls union leader went from rapper to unlikely voice of protest

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^> (Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in Palo Alto, CA, Danielle Kaye in New York and Julia Love in San Francisco; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Henderson) ((Jeffrey.Dastin@thomsonreuters.com ; +1 424 434 7548;)) Keywords: AMAZON.COM LABOR/CHALLENGES (ANALYSIS, PIX)

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