Nearly a year has passed since workers in New York’s Amazon warehouse voted to form the first ever American labour union. This historic labor victory gained global attention. The fight is not over.
Amazon is fighting the outcome of the election through legal actions.
It has been impossible to organize workers in other warehouses, even one across the street.
Negotiations with the company to establish a labor contract for warehouse workers are yet to begin. They will likely take many years.
Chris Smalls, a former Amazon worker, started the union after he was fired by the company during the pandemic. He takes the lackluster progress with a smile.
He says, “We know that we are dealing with a trillion-dollar company that will spend X amount to prevent a union from happening so the timing of it is exactly what we expected.”
Regulators finally approved the victory of Amazon Labor Union at JFK8, a warehouse on Staten Island that has approximately 8,000 employees, earlier this month.
Amazon claims that the election result was unfairly tipped against it by regulators and plans to appeal. The deadline was extended by two weeks this week.
Kelly Nantel spokeswoman said that it was unlikely that the NLRB regional office (National Labor Relations Board), would rule against itself. She also stated that she intended to appeal.
“As we have stated since the beginning, this election process wasn’t fair, legitimate or representative of the majority what our team wants.”
The current state of play is indicative the continuing questions about America’s future labour movement.
Despite an increase in organizing activity, the percentage of workers who are union members has continued to decline over the decades, dropping to 10.1% lastyear from 10.3% in 2021.
This is the lowest recorded rate and about half the rate it was in 1983 when the government began tracking the figures.
However, there are signs that labour organizers have made progress.
According to a Gallup poll, more than 70% Americans support labor unions. This is the highest percentage since 1965.
The number of workers filing petitions to form unions at work jumped 53% from October to October. It was more than 2,510, the highest total since 2016, according to the NLRB.
In the private sector, however, the number members of unions increased by almost 200,000 last year. This was the first increase in almost a decade. It was driven by gains in transportation and warehousing.
These gains were not enough to keep up with the overall workforce growth, however. It grew at an accelerated rate last year.
Cathy Creighton is the director of Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations Buffalo Co-Lab and a former field attorney for NLRB. She says US law favors employers and it is unlikely that this activity will bring long-term benefits to the labour movement.
She says that the law doesn’t even provide a way for companies to enter into a contract with employees.
“I don’t deny there is a movement, but the question here is how long-term will it take.” She says.
“Corporate America is fighting hard, and the government isn’t on the workers’ side. Unless the American people realize what’s happening and realise the obstacle, and ask their elected officials for changes to the law.
She claims that companies can often use the clock to slow down labour movement momentum and stifle its momentum.
It has been almost three years since Mr Smalls was employed by Amazon. The celebrity status that he has gained since then has led to accusations of him being disconnected from work. Derrick Palmer (another top leader at Amazon Labor Union) has been removed from work since last year as the company investigates a worker dispute.
Mr. Smalls denies that Amazon’s wait game will be successful, and points to new union campaigns for Minnesota and California. He will also visit the UK this week to see workers who are planning their first ever walkout.
Their plan is to stall for as long as possible, but they’re going to be creative at our end. He says that’s what has gotten us to this point.
He adds, “We don’t want anything else than a contract and will not stop organizing or fighting until we get it.” “If the company is truly a great company, then it’s the right time to sit down and negotiate.”