Amazon’s First Ever Union Overcomes Hurdles, Faces New Ones

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NEW YORK  — When a scrappy group of former and current warehouse workers on Staten Island, New York went head-to-head with Amazon in a union election, many compared it to a David and Goliath battle.

David won. And the stunning upset on Friday brought sudden exposure to the organizers and worker advocates who realized victory for the nascent Amazon Labor Union when so many other more established labor groups had failed before them, including most recently in Bessemer, Alabama.

Initial results in that election show the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union down by 118 votes, with the majority of Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer rejecting a bid to form a union. The final outcome is still up in the air with 416 outstanding challenged ballots hanging in the balance. A hearing to review the ballots is expected to begin in the coming weeks.

Chris Smalls, a fired Amazon worker who heads the ALU, has been critical of the RWDSU’s campaign, saying it didn’t have enough local support. Instead, he chose an independent path, believing workers organizing themselves would be more effective and undercut Amazon’s narrative that “third party” groups were driving union efforts.

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