Against nearly impossible odds, the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), an independent union, is on the verge of winning the first NLRB union election at an Amazon warehouse in the US.
On Thursday night, the vote count was 1,518 in favor of the union and 1,154 against. As of 11:00AM Eastern today, the union lead has grown to 2050-1574, all but guaranteeing a victory for the union.
Labor Notes published an excellent account of the vote with interviews of the workers leading the campaign.
A Pro-Union Moment
Before the vote, there was plenty of skepticism in the labor movement and among the pundits. With only a small organizing committee, no budget, and no experience along with management's ferocious anti-union campaign, most predicted a lopsided vote against joining ALU.
What the winning vote makes clear is that after the pandemic there is a growing fightback among workers. Starbucks baristas, gaming company programmers and the New York Times digital team have all recently formed unions. The current "union moment" is having a broad impact.
The win at Amazon shows that when it comes to a company of the size and scale of Amazon, some of the standard organizing tactics and strategies may not apply.
We need to have a fresh approach, recognizing that there will be many successes and failures in a long-term effort to build a strong union at Amazon.
Amazon Drive in Alabama
At the same time that Staten Island workers' ballots were being counted, the votes were being tallied for the NLRB-ordered re-run election at Amazon's huge fulfillment center in Bessemer, AL.
Support for the RWDSU union appears to be falling short, but the outcome is much closer than last year’s vote. The union did much better on the second attempt and there are enough challenged ballots to make the final result unknown.
It will be harder to organize Amazon in Alabama and other states with low union density compared to metro areas like New York, which have a high concentration of union members.
High union density leads to a positive "word of mouth" message about unions in working families' households that will be more convincing than leaflets.
Amazon facilities are highly concentrated in metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles where there is broader support for unions.
In these areas, there are already dozens of "last mile" delivery stations with a smaller workforce in a pro-union environment. Similar to UPS, coordinated actions at Amazon delivery stations in just a few cities could have a huge ripple effect.
The initial victory by a grassroots independent union among the nearly 6,000 Amazon workers in Staten Island is a great first step in the long march to organize Amazon.