Christian Smalls, the Amazon employee leading the union fight against the online retailer, sends a clear message to the company’s founder Jeff Bezos after Friday’s historic vote.
“@amazon wanted to make me the face of the entire union campaign against them… well, here you go!” Smalls tweeted, noting Bezos and the company’s general counsel, David Zapolsky.
On Friday, Amazon workers at a warehouse in New York’s Staten Island neighborhood voted to form a union, becoming the first enterprise of the e-commerce giant to unionize in the 27-year history of the company.
According to multiple sources, outside the NLBR office in Brooklyn, Smalls told reporters on Friday: “We want to thank Jeff Bezos for flying into space, because while he was there, we organized a union.”
A count conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) showed that 2,654 votes were cast for the creation of unions, and 2,131 against, which means that 55 percent of those who voted at the JFK8 implementation Center in New York supported the effort.
The effort was led by Smalls, who was fired by Amazon two years ago after he led a strike at a Staten Island facility to protest concerns about the pandemic.
Ahead of the 2020 strike, Smalls previously said: “We want the truth to be there. We want the public to know how many cases there really are in these buildings.”
At a time when most of America’s workers switched to remote work, Amazon warehouse employees were marked as core workers who had to work in person despite COVID lockdowns.
Smalls and those who worked at JFK8 feared that there were no proper medical protocols in the early days of the pandemic and that the lack of paid sick leave encouraged infected staff to keep returning to work.
When he and other Amazon workers began to unite last year, many expected that the chances of union success would be minimal, but workers at a Staten Island warehouse scored a major victory on Friday, despite the giant’s efforts to destroy unions.
Bezos’ company has a history of fighting unions, which JFK8 employees are well familiar with.
Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, also tried to unionize this week in a repeat vote after last year’s union bid failed. The first attempt was rejected after the NLRB regional director determined that Amazon illegally interfered and “made free and fair elections impossible.”
CNBC reported earlier this week that Amazon hired an influential Democratic polling company to help fight the union movement by releasing anti-union materials to dissuade workers from unionizing.
@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
In response to the union vote, Amazon released a statement saying it was “disappointed with the Staten Island election results because we believe a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees.”
“We are evaluating our options, including filing objections based on inappropriate and improper influence by the NLRB, which we and others (including the National Retail Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) have witnessed in this election,” the statement said.
Efforts to unionize on Staten Island have attracted the attention of many and even received the support of important political figures such as Senator Bernie Sanders.
“Are you ready for a radical idea? Instead of giving Jeff Bezos $10 billion in aid for a $191 billion flight to the moon, let’s make it easier for workers to form a union,” Sanders wrote on Thursday. “I am in full solidarity with the Amazon workers in Staten Island and Bessemer who are voting for unification.”
The Alabama vote count is much narrower and currently depends on 416 contested ballots, which are enough to influence the final vote, and a decision is expected in the coming weeks.