US and World Politics

Amazon Labor Union Wins Certification in New York

By Mark Satinoff

January 15, 2023—On January 11, nine months after the historic victory at Amazon’s JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 28 director overruled Amazon’s objections and certified the election results.

The election took place March 25-30, 2022. There were 8,325 eligible voters. Of the nearly 5,000 ballots cast, the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) won by a margin of 523 votes.

“Amazon’s workers won fair and square,” ALU president Chris Smalls said in a statement. “It’s now time for Amazon to quit stalling, obey the law, respect their workers, and sit down at the bargaining table.”

One week after the NLRB counted the ballots last spring, Amazon filed 25 objections to the election. It accused the ALU of coercing workers to support the union and charged the NLRB with behaving in a manner that favored the ALU. The labor board’s Region 29, based in Brooklyn, New York, oversaw the election. The hearing on Amazon’s objections was transferred to NLRB’s Region 28 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Last summer, NLRB hearing officer Lisa Dunn issued a report dismissing Amazon’s objections in their entirety. The January 11th decision and certification of the union upheld Dunn’s findings. Amazon has until January 25 to request a review of this ruling by the NLRB in Washington, DC. Irrespective of the outcome of such a request, Amazon chief executive Andy Jassy has already made public the company’s intention to appeal the labor board’s ruling in federal court.

Seth Goldstein, attorney for the ALU, said in a Twitter statement that Amazon “put us through a 23-day hearing, 100 pages of briefs, and at the end of the day, certification has been issued.” He told the website Vice, “We’re demanding that Amazon now, after certification, meet and bargain with us…and if we need to, we’re going to move to get a court order enforcing our bargaining rights.”

In a letter to JFK8 workers dated January 12, the ALU wrote, “Amazon MUST negotiate a fair UNION CONTRACT with the Workers of JFK8 over our schedules, working conditions, and pay. Amazon MUST negotiate over ANY changes to working conditions…”1

It is clear Amazon will resist those demands. In an internal communication to employees, released the same day and addressed to the “JFK8 team,” Amazon wrote, “We strongly disagree with the decision and intend to appeal. …In the meantime, there will be no immediate changes to how we operate at our site” (emphasis added).

Amazon’s strategy is to tie the union up in a drawn-out legal battle, draining it of valuable resources and hoping to demoralize workers in the process. According to an analysis on the website Bloomberg Law, on average it now takes 465 days for a union to win its first contract.

The decision to certify the ALU followed another recent unfavorable ruling for Amazon. In November, a federal judge in New York issued an injunction requiring Amazon to cease and desist from firing workers for union activity. That ruling was in response to a petition filed by Gerald Bryson, who was fired from JFK8 in 2020 when he protested the lack of safety protocols regarding COVID-19.

“This is of huge significance,” Goldstein said in November. “That means that wherever in the country they violate it, theoretically the National Labor Relations Board can immediately seek a Contempt of Court order. A federal judge is not happy when a party violates their rule—there can be sanctions of all types.”

That may be true. However, employers rarely claim that union activity is the reason they dismiss an employee. More frequently they target union activists with the charge of breaking other employer rules. Moreover, the NLRB and the courts rarely move quickly on the infrequent occasions they take action to protect workers’ rights. If Amazon violates the court order, the ALU and its supporters will need to respond.

Amazon is the second largest employer in the country, with 1.6 million workers as of October 2022. JFK8 is the company’s first and only unionized warehouse in the United States. The fight to win a contract there is crucial for the future of the ALU and can help inspire workers nationwide.

While Amazon’s strategy is to wage a prolonged legal fight against the ALU, it’s important to recognize that a recalcitrant employer’s judicial appeal does not prevent rank-and-file action to compel that company to negotiate. The organized power of the rank and file can force Amazon to the bargaining table.

World-Outlook, January 15, 2023

1 A letter the ALU sent to Amazon workers at JFK8 immediately after the January 11 NLRB decision to certify the union is published in World-Outlook here: