METROTECH, Brooklyn — In a stunning case of David versus Goliath, a group of employees successfully won a vote to form a union at a warehouse owned by Amazon, one of the largest corporations in the world. It’s the first Amazon union in the country, and its organizers predict more to come.
The workers spoke about their win and celebrated outside of the National Labor Relations Board office here, where the votes had been counted and certified on Friday.
“The numbers don’t lie!” one of the organizers, Jordan Flowers, said as he held up the official tally sheet.
It showed that 2,654 workers voted for unionizing, to 2,131 against. It was a more than 10 percent margin in favor.
Derrick Palmer, one of the organizers, said that with him and other pro-union employees working in the warehouse, they were able to counter a significant campaign by the corporation to sour employees on unionizing.
“End of the day,” he said, “us on the inside is the reason why we were able to be successful.”
Amazon has reported spending more than $4 million on anti-unionization consultants.
Despite that, the union is now reality. Its founder is Chris Smalls. He’d been a supervisor at the Amazon facility, but when some workers who reported to him started getting sick with COVID in March of 2020, he called on the company to close the warehouse. When it didn’t, Smalls organized a walkout. That led to him being fired by the company, after which he started the union.
“Every vote counts. Every voice was heard,” Smalls said outside of 2 Metrotech, the building where the NLRB office is housed, and where the votes were counted, and certified.
“It was Amazon versus the people, and the people have spoken,” Smalls added.
For its part, Amazon issued a written statement that was critical of the election process.
“We’re disappointed with the outcome of the election in Staten Island,” the statement said, “because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees. 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.
Again, the National Labor Relations Board certified the union election.
Amazon has more than 1,100 warehouses, including one in Alabama where a unionization vote has failed before, but a second election is underway, with results so close that a recount may be necessary.
Still, after the union victory here in New York, both Smalls and the new union’s attorney said that this provides major momentum.
“This is gonna be the catalyst for the revolution,” Smalls said. “We’ve already got interest in 18 different buildings in several different states, workers reaching out to us. We want to help every single person we could.”
Eric Milner, the union’s lawyer, echoed that.
“I think it’s gonna just start a chain reaction, warehouse to warehouse now,” he said. “We have another election at the end of April at the LDJ5 warehouse,” which is also in Staten Island, close to the warehouse that just voted to unionize, which is called JFK8.