In December, nearly six weeks after the union’s successful vote at two Buffalo Area Starbucks stores, workers filed paperwork to hold union elections in at least 20 other Starbucks locations across the country.
In contrast, since the Amazon Labor Union won last month’s vote in a vote at a large Staten Island warehouse, only one of Amazon’s second facility workers has had to immediately withdraw its petition – a non-existent one. With a clear past – filed for a union election. .
This difference may come as a surprise to those who thought that being organized on Amazon could follow the explosive pattern seen in Starbucks, where more than 250 store workers have filed for election and The union won a large majority of the vote. .
Christian Simals, president of the Independent Amazon Labor Union, told NPR shortly after the victory that his group had heard from workers at 50 other Amazon facilities, adding: “Like the Starbucks movement, we have wildfires. Want to spread across the country. “
Both campaigns share some features – in particular, they are largely overseen by staff rather than professional administrators. And the Amazon Labor Union has made more progress than most experts at Amazon, and more than any established union.
But uniting workers on Amazon has always been a long, confusing slogan, given the scale of its facilities and the nature of the workplace. “It’s very difficult to break Amazon,” said John Logan, a professor of labor studies at San Francisco State University. The union recently lost votes in a small warehouse on Staten Island.
To win, the union must have the support of more than 50% of the voting workers. This means that 15 or 20 union supporters can ensure victory in a typical Starbucks store – a level of support that can be sought in hours or days. In Amazon’s warehouses, a union often has to get hundreds or thousands of votes.
Amazon labor union managers spent hundreds of hours talking to co-workers inside the warehouse during breaks, after work and on holidays. They cooked at the bus stop outside the warehouse and contacted hundreds of colleagues through WhatsApp groups.
Brian Denning, who leads Amazon’s organizing campaign in Portland, Ore, organized by the Democratic Socialist America Chapter, said his group has been meeting with Amazon workers and contractors six times a week since the Staten Island conquest. Or seven inquiries received, vs. one or two. The week before.
But Mr. Denning, a former Amazon warehouse employee who tells workers that he should lead the union’s campaign, said many did not realize how much work was needed to build the union, and when Some became discouraged when talking to.
Understand the efforts of unification on Amazon.
“We tell people how do we get the ALU situation here? How do we do what they did?” Mr Danning added: “I don’t want to scare them. But I can’t lie to the workers. What is this? It’s not for everyone.”
At Starbucks, employees work together in a relatively small space, sometimes without a manager being present for hours at a time directly overseeing them. This allows them to talk openly about concerns about pay and working conditions and the good of the union.
In Amazon, warehouses are full of caves, and workers are often isolated and closely monitored, especially during an organizational campaign.
Derek Palmer, an Amazon employee at Staten Island who is one of the union’s vice presidents, said: “Everything they do will strategically separate me from everyone in my department.” “If they see me talking to this person, they will take them to another station.”
When asked about the allegation, Amazon said it has assigned work to employees based on workstations and operational requirements.
Both companies have accused the unions of their own unfair tactics, including intimidating workers and inciting hostilities.
Managing drivers is another major challenge, partly because they are officially employed by contractors who hire Amazon, although labor organizers say they are working to address drivers’ concerns. Would like to put pressure on the company.
Christy Cameron, a former driver of an Amazon service near St. Louis, said the job setup prevented drivers from talking at all. At the beginning of each shift, a manager for the contractor briefs the drivers, who then disperse to their trucks, helping them load and unload on the road.
Ms Cameron said in a text message that “it takes very little time to talk to co-workers other than hello,” adding that Amazon’s training discouraged them from talking to co-drivers about working conditions. Of “In general, they are strongly opposed to the alliance and do not talk to each other about salaries and benefits.”
Amazon, with about 1 million American workers, and Starbucks, which has less than 250,000, offer similar salaries. Amazon says it has a minimum wage of $ 15 per hour and an average starting wage in warehouses of more than $ 18. Starbucks has said that by August, the minimum hourly wage will be $ 15 and the average will be around $ 17.
Despite the similarity in pay, regulators say companies’ workforce dynamics can be quite different.
In the Staten Island warehouse where Amazon workers voted against the union, many employees work four-hour shifts and travel 30 to 60 minutes on each route, suggesting that their There are limited alternatives.
“People who go to such lengths for a four-hour job – this is a special group of people who are really struggling to make it,” said Jane Briskin., A longtime labor organizer who advised the Amazon Labor Union in two Staten Island elections in an interview last month.
As a result, there may be additional benefits to organizing on Amazon, rather than high-profile election victories. In the Manipolis area, a group of mainly Somali-speaking Amazon workers have protested and obtained concessions from the company, such as the process of reviewing firing on production targets. The Chicago area workers group is affiliated with Amazonians United. Salary increase received Not long after the walkout in December.
Ted Mine, an Amazon worker who is one of the group’s members, said the concessions came eight or nine months after the organization was formed, with at least two years to go before the union wins the election and the first agreement is reached. It will take time to negotiate.
For those workers who want a contract, the negotiation process at Starbucks and Amazon may be different. In most cases, bargaining to improve pay and work conditions requires additional pressure on the employer.
At Starbucks, this pressure is somehow the speed of the Union from electoral victories. “The expansion of the campaign gives the union the ability to win the bargain,” Mr Logan said. (Starbucks, however, has said it will block new pay and benefits for workers who have joined the alliance, saying such provisions must be negotiated.)
On Amazon, by contrast, the pressure needed to win the deal may come from other sources. Some are traditional, such as managing warehouse workers, who may decide to strike if Amazon refuses to recognize them or bargains. The company is challenging the Union’s victory over Staten Island.
But the union is also including political allies in a bid to put pressure on Amazon. Mr Smalls, the union’s president, testified at a Senate hearing this month that sought to determine whether the federal government should deny contracts to companies violating labor laws.
On Thursday, Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, introduced legislation that seeks to prevent employers from cutting back on anti-union activities, such as the services of consultants to prevent workers from unionizing as business expenses. to gain.
While many of these efforts may be more symbolic than real, some seem to have gained attention. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced last summer that it was giving Amazon a 20-year lease at Newark Liberty International Airport to build an air cargo hub, an alliance of community, labor and environmental groups. Activated against the plan.
The status of the lease, which was supposed to be finalized by the end of last year, is not yet clear. The Port Authority said it was negotiating a lease with Amazon and was looking for community input. An Amazon spokesman said the company was confident the deal would close.
A spokesman for New Jersey Government Phil Murphy indicated that the company may have to negotiate with labor groups before proceeding with the deal. “The governor encourages anyone doing business in our state to work in good faith with their labor partners,” the spokesman said.
Karen Weiss Cooperation reporting.