The Amazon Labor Union declared a historic victory at a Staten Island warehouse Friday, forming the first union at any of the e-commerce behemoth’s American fulfillment centers.
Votes in favor of the union, which is not affiliated with a larger labor organization, substantially outnumbered those against, with 2,654 in favor and 2,131 against. The union’s president, Christian Smalls, declared victory on Twitter.
“Amazon wanted to make me the face of the whole unionizing efforts against them….welp there you go,” said Smalls, tagging Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — the second richest person in the world — and general counsel David Zapolsky. “We worked had fun and made History. #ALUfortheWin welcome the 1st union in America for Amazon.”
@amazon wanted to make me the face of the whole unionizing efforts against them…. welp there you go! @JeffBezos @DavidZapolsky CONGRATULATIONS 🎉 @amazonlabor We worked had fun and made History ‼️✊🏾 #ALU # ALUfortheWin welcome the 1st union in America for Amazon 🔥🔥🔥🔥
— Christian Smalls (@Shut_downAmazon) April 1, 2022
After declaring victory, Smalls popped a bottle of champagne outside the National Labor Relations Board’s Brooklyn office and thanked Bezos for going to space.
“We want to thank Jeff Bezos,” he said. “Because while he was up in space, we was signing people up.”
In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the company is “disappointed” in the decision and claimed that the NLRB had been improperly influenced during the election by union organizers.
“We’re disappointed with the outcome of the election in Staten Island because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees,” the company wrote. “We’re evaluating our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB that we and others (including the National Retail Federation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce) witnessed in this election.”
The JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island employs thousands of workers, often on a seasonal basis and in grueling conditions, fulfilling Amazon orders from throughout the five boroughs. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, Smalls was fired by Amazon after organizing an employee walkout protesting the company’s workplace safety protocols; Amazon executives later launched a smear campaign to brand Smalls, whom they called “not smart or articulate,” as the face of the unionization effort, which Smalls on Friday said backfired spectacularly.
After being fired, Smalls became a vocal critic of Amazon and began attempting to organize the employees at the warehouse. Following a failed unionization vote at a warehouse in Alabama, Smalls decided to form his own union independent of larger labor syndicates. ALU filed for a union election in October, though withdrew its petition after questions over signatures; it reapplied a few months later.
The company is well-known for fiercely opposing any unionization efforts by its employees; the company plastered the warehouse with anti-union literature, forced employees to attend anti-union meetings, and hired top-dollar union-busting consultants. Smalls, who has spent the past several months outside the warehouse chatting up employees and selling them on unionization, was even arrested on trespassing charges.
In Alabama, meanwhile, a second vote on unionization appears to have failed, though on much closer margins than the first one last year. The National Labor Relations Board had ordered a second election for workers at the Bessemer plant to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union after Amazon was determined to have illegally interfered in the vote, including by keeping a mailbox for workers to mail their union votes within the warehouse.