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Amazon sees fresh push to unionise in New York

October 22, 2021 9:05 am

More than 2,000 Amazon warehouse workers in New York City hope to hold a vote to unionise, in the latest labour push at the firm.

It’s the second organising effort at the online shopping giant this year, and comes amid a pick-up in union activity across the US.

The workers, from four Amazon sites in Staten Island, want higher wages, safer working conditions and longer breaks.

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Amazon said they were free to unionise but it was not the “best answer”.

The employee group, called the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), said it will file a petition to the National Labor Relations Board on Monday, asking it to formally allow a vote.

So far more than 2,000 workers have signed the petition, out of a total of 7,000, meaning they roughly meet the required threshold. At least 30% of workers have to sign for a vote to proceed.
“Workers are demanding Amazon to stop their union-busting practices and allow workers to use their rights to organise towards collective bargaining without interference,” the ALU said in a statement.

“We intend to fight for higher wages, job security, safer working conditions, more paid time off, better medical leave options and longer breaks.”

ALU organisers formed the group after a Staten Island worker was fired after organising a walkout last year. Chris Smalls had been protesting against allegedly unsafe working conditions during the pandemic, but Amazon claimed he had repeatedly violated social distancing guidelines.

Later, Mr Smalls, who is black, was described as “not smart, or articulate” in a leaked internal memo discussing Amazon’s approach to worker activism during Covid.

It sparked accusations of racism, and one of Amazon’s lawyers apologised.

New York’s attorney general Letitia James is now suing Amazon for allegedly retaliating against Mr Smalls.

The Staten Island efforts come after an unsuccessful attempt by warehouse workers to unionise in Bessemer, Alabama earlier this year. Currently no Amazon warehouses in the US are unionised.

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