A third Amazon warehouse has collected enough signatures to hold a vote on whether to unionize, the National Labor Relations Board confirmed Thursday, part of a movement spreading throughout the e-commerce giant to push for better working conditions.
Amazon has worked to strongly oppose the unions by holding regular classes for employees, launching a website and telling them the union might not result in raises.
“We look forward to having our employees’ voices heard,” Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in a statement. “Our focus remains on working directly with our team to make Amazon a great place to work.”
The first Staten Island vote, organized by the nascent Amazon Labor Union, will take place in person outside the Amazon warehouse from March 25 to March 30. Now, an election could also take place at smaller warehouse LDJ5, also on Staten Island. An election date and terms of a vote have not yet been set.
That sortation center, where packages are sorted for final delivery, has about 1,500 employees total, union organizers said, and the NLRB confirmed that organizers submitted signed cards for at least 30 percent of the potential union group.
The redo election in Alabama is because the NLRB threw out the results of the first vote last year, saying Amazon improperly interfered. The first vote rejected unionization.
Union leaders celebrated the step toward a third election, saying it’s more progress for workers’ rights. The unions have pushed for better pay, longer breaks and less surveillance of workers at the massive warehouses.
“It’s just another example of how when we come together, we can accomplish these milestones,” said Chris Smalls, a former Amazon employee and organizing leader for the union.
Smalls, who was fired from Amazon in 2020, was arrested last week in the parking lot of JFK8 on Staten Island after Amazon security called the police to report he was trespassing.
Tensions are running high as the votes approach between union organizers and company officials — and sometimes between workers voting for and against the unions — at the warehouses. The NLRB accused Amazon in January of illegally surveilling and threatening workers who are trying to unionize the warehouse. At the time, Amazon said the allegations were false.
Smalls said he was delivering food to workers on their break Feb. 23, something he said he has done regularly for 10 months. He was charged with resisting arrest, obstruction of government administration and trespassing after refusing to leave the area, according to an NYPD spokesperson.
Smalls disputes that he resisted arrest and said the incident “made the company look very ugly.” He was in the same area that many food delivery services use, he said.
Nantel said in a statement that Smalls had trespassed multiple times, despite warnings.
“On Feb. 23, when police officers asked Mr. Smalls to leave, he instead chose to escalate the situation and the police made their own decision on how to respond,” she said.
Smalls said a hearing will be held March 14 on the terms of the election at the smaller Staten Island warehouse.