Staten Island Amazon Union Could Face Tough Road After Victory - The Jewish Voice
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Staten Island Amazon Union Could Face Tough Road After Victory

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By: Haleluya Hadero

In the aftermath of their hard-won labor victory, Amazon workers in Staten Island popped Champagne, cheered their victory and danced in celebration. But their jovial attitude will be tested by a company that seems likely to drag its feet to the bargaining table.

Among other things, the nascent Amazon Labor Union, or ALU, has said it wants longer breaks for warehouse employees, more time off and a dramatically higher minimum hourly wage of $30, up from just over $18 an hour now at the Staten Island facility.

To achieve anything close to that, the grassroots union would need to negotiate a contract with Amazon that both sides, as well as union members, agree on. Doing so could prove difficult.

Amazon is seeking to overturn the election, having argued in a filing with the National Labor Relations Board this month that the vote was tainted by organizers and by the board’s regional office in Brooklyn that oversaw the election. On Friday, the company submitted material to support its objections in a filing to the agency. A spokeswoman for the labor board said the agency won’t make that filing public while the case is still open. A separate NLRB regional office in the Southwest will likely hold hearings and decide whether to certify the results.

If Amazon’s effort fails, it could appeal to the national labor board, whose Democratic majority is expected to favor the fledgling union. But even in cases when the agency upholds a union victory, companies often refuse to negotiate — a stance that can trigger lengthy legal battles in federal court as a backdoor way to thwart labor victories.

Data compiled in 2009 by Kate Bronfenbrenner, a labor expert at Cornell University, found that fewer than half of unions obtained their first contract within a year of winning an election, and 30% didn’t secure one within three years. In the meantime, time ticks away as workers are left in a state of uncertainty.

John Logan, director of Labor and Employment Studies at San Francisco State University, says anti-union companies have traditionally taken the view that even if they lose an election, the battle isn’t truly lost until a union contract is signed.

“There’s every incentive for them to delay the process at every opportunity,” Logan said. “Law firms and consultants who specialize in continued avoidance activity have, for years, told employers explicitly, ‘Time is on your side.’ ”

Even if Amazon goes to federal court and fails, it could still cause a contract delay and potentially blunt some of the momentum a union victory might create. Chris Smalls, the fired Amazon worker who leads the Amazon Labor Union, has said that since the group won its election earlier this month, workers from more than 100 Amazon facilities in the U.S. have contacted the union about organizing their own workplaces. A neighboring Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, which has roughly 1,500 workers, is set to have its own union election this week.

Experts say delays for a contract can frustrate such union campaigns and undermine employee confidence in organized labor. The result can be a weak contract or diminished interest among workers in organizing.

(AP)

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