One Unity Blitzed Starbucks. It’s a Slogan on Amazon.


about six weeks later successful union votes Workers at two Buffalo-area Starbucks stores in December 20 other Starbucks places around the country.

In contrast, since the Amazon Labor Union last month victory In a vote at a major Staten Island warehouse, only workers at another Amazon facility applied for union election – with an unspecified union. checkered past – before they immediately withdraw their petition.

The difference may come as a surprise to those who believe that organizing at Amazon may follow the explosive pattern witnessed at Starbucks, where workers in more than 250 stores applied for election and the union prevailed in the vast majority of polling places. .

Christian Smalls, president of the Independent Amazon Labor Union, told NPR Shortly after his group’s victory over workers at 50 other Amazon sites, he said, “Just as Starbucks movementWe want to spread like wildfire across the country.”

The two campaigns share some features – most importantly, both heavily controlled By workers rather than professional organizers And the Amazon Workers Union has made more progress at Amazon than most experts expected and any established union.

But unionizing workers at Amazon has always been a longer and more complex task, given the scale of its facilities and the nature of the workplace. “Amazon is a much harder nut to crack,” John Logan, a professor of labor studies at San Francisco State University, said in an email. recently united lost vote In a smaller warehouse on Staten Island.

A union must have the support of more than 50 percent of the workers who vote to win. That means 15 or 20 pro-union workers could be guaranteed victory in a typical Starbucks store – a level of support that could be summoned within hours or days. In Amazon warehouses, a syndicate would often have to win hundreds or thousands of votes.

Amazon Workers Union organizers spent hundreds of hours talking to coworkers at the warehouse during breaks, after work, and on days off. They cooked at a bus stop outside the warehouse and communicated with hundreds of colleagues via WhatsApp groups.

Brian Denning, who leads an Amazon organizing campaign sponsored by the Democratic Socialists of America chapter in Portland, Ore., said his group received six or seven questions a week, one or two surveys from Amazon workers and contractors after the Staten Island victory. week in advance.

But Mr Denning, a former Amazon warehouse employee who told workers they were the ones to lead a union campaign, said many did not understand how much effort it took to unionize, and some were discouraged after speaking to them.

“We get people to say how to get an ALU state here? How are we going to do like them?” Mr. Denning added: “I don’t want to scare them away. But I can’t lie to the workers. This is the situation. It is not for everyone.”

At Starbucks, employees work together in a relatively small space, sometimes without a manager to directly oversee them around the clock. This allows them to openly discuss their concerns about pay and working conditions and the merits of a union.

In the Amazon, warehouses are huge and workers are often more isolated and more closely supervised, especially during an organizing campaign.

“What they’re going to do is strategically separate me from everyone else in my department,” said Derrick Palmer, an Amazon employee in Staten Island and one of the union’s vice presidents. “If they saw that I was interacting with that person, they would take them to a different station.”

Asked about the claim, Amazon said it assigns its employees to workstations and tasks based on operational needs.

Both companies accused the unions of their own unfair tactics. intimidating workers and incite hostile conflicts.

Organizing drivers is an even bigger challenge, in part because they’re officially employed by Amazon’s hired contractors, but worker organizers say they want to pressure the company to address drivers’ concerns.

Christy Cameron, a former driver at an Amazon facility near St. Louis, said the layout of the job greatly discouraged drivers from interacting. At the beginning of each shift, a manager for the contractor briefs drivers who then disperse into their trucks, helping them load and get on the road.

“There’s very little time left to talk to your co-workers apart from hello,” Cameron said in a text message, adding that Amazon’s training has given up on discussing working conditions with other drivers. “It was generally because they were against unionizing and didn’t talk to each other about pay and benefits.”

Amazon, with its nearly one million U.S. workers, and Starbucks, which has just under 250,000, offer similar wages. Amazon told his minimum hourly wage is $15, and average starting fee Over $18 in stores. Starbucks told He said that as of August, his minimum hourly wage will be $15, with an average of about $17.

Despite the similarity in wages, organizers say the dynamics of companies’ workforces can be quite different.

At the Staten Island warehouse with Amazon workers voted against unionizationmany employees work four-hour shifts and commute between 30 and 60 minutes each way, meaning they have limited alternatives.

“People who take this long for a four-hour job — a certain group of people who really struggle to do it,” said Gene Bruskin., He was a longtime labor organizer who advised the Amazon Labor Union in the two Staten Island elections. meeting last month.

As a result of all this, organizing at Amazon may involve gradual gains rather than high-profile electoral victories. In the Minneapolis area, a group of mostly Somali-speaking Amazon workers staged protests and concessions made from the company, such as a review process for layoffs related to productivity goals. Chicago area employees who belong to the Amazonians United group salary increases received Shortly after a strike in December.

Ted Miin, an Amazon worker who is one of the group’s members, said the concessions were made after eight or nine months of organizing, but the two-year minimum required to win a union election and negotiate an initial contract.

Contract negotiation processes at Starbucks and Amazon may differ for workers seeking contracts. In many cases, bargaining for compensation and improvements in working conditions requires additional pressure on the employer.

At Starbucks, that pressure is, in a sense, the momentum the union gets from electoral victories. “The spread of the campaign gives the union the ability to win in the bargain,” Mr. Logan said. (Starbucks though handle New wage and benefits increases from unionized workers saying such provisions should be negotiable.)

With Amazon, by contrast, the pressure to win a contract will likely come from other means. Some are as traditional as continuing to organize warehouse workers who may decide to strike if Amazon refuses to recognize them or negotiate. company compelling Union victory in Staten Island.

But the union also gets political allies to put pressure on Amazon. Union president Mr Smalls, testified at a Senate hearing this month This was investigating whether the federal government should reject contracts to companies that violate labor laws.

On Thursday, Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey is introducing legislation that seeks to prevent employers from deducting anti-union activities as a business expense, such as hiring counselors to deter workers from unionizing.

While many of these efforts are more symbolic than material, some seem to have received attention. After the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced last summer that it gave Amazon a 20-year lease to develop an air cargo hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, coalition society, labor and environmental groups took action against the project.

Status of the rental to be final At the end of last year, it remains unclear. A spokesperson for Amazon said the company looks forward to “continuing government involvement” and is confident the deal will close.

A spokesperson for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said the company may need to negotiate with workers’ groups before the deal can go ahead. “The Governor encourages everyone who does business in our state to work in good faith in cooperation with their labor partners,” the spokesperson said.

Karen Weise contributing reporting.


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