Group behind first-ever U.S. Amazon union backs campaigns at 2 warehouses

Union will offer organizing and financial assistance, its president says.

July 9, 2022, 5:04 AM

The labor group behind the first-ever U.S. union at Amazon has thrown its support behind organizing campaigns at two additional warehouses.

Amazon Labor Union, the worker-led union behind the victory at an Amazon warehouse in New York City in April, reached agreements to provide organizing and financial assistance for workers trying to unionize warehouses in Albany, NY. and Campbellsville, KY., who will affiliate as formal chapters of the union, ALU President Chris Smalls told ABC News.

The development demonstrates the appeal of worker-led union campaigns and raises the possibility that the momentum built by the initial labor victory will foster unionization at other warehouses, experts said.

But they cautioned that the size of Amazon warehouses and well-resourced anti-union efforts from the corporation will continue to make the labor campaigns difficult.

"This shows workers are coming together," said Jordan Flowers, a co-founder of ALU. "These workers want to see a union now, and they're choosing ALU."

The two organizing partnerships with ALU were first reported by More Perfect Union.

Workers organizing at a third facility in Garner, North Carolina are in discussions with ALU about partnering with the union, Ryan Brown, an Amazon warehouse worker involved in the labor campaign at the facility, told ABC News.

A woman works at a packing station at the Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, Feb. 5, 2019.
Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

"We're going to assist them 100%," said Smalls, the ALU president and former Amazon warehouse worker. "Whatever they need: Resources, money, going out there."

He acknowledged that the labor campaigns in Albany and Campbellsville remain in the "infancy stage."

In a statement to ABC News, Amazon expressed its general opposition to union campaigns.

"Our employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union. They always have," Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said. "As a company, we don't think unions are the best answer for our employees. Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work."

ALU, an independent union initially fueled by fundraising on a GoFundMe page, carried out a monthslong organizing campaign at the 6,000-employee warehouse on Staten Island that proved one of the most significant labor victories in the U.S. in recent decades.

After the union victory, Amazon filed objections with the National Labor Relations Board seeking to overturn the outcome, including allegations that NLRB officials showed a favorable bias toward the workers and that union leaders bribed colleagues in an effort to win their support. The ALU has rejected those claims. The NLRB hearings are ongoing.

In May, ALU lost a second union election at a neighboring warehouse on Staten Island. The partnerships with workers in Albany and Campbellsville mark the first labor campaigns announced by the ALU since the two union drives on Staten Island.

Matt Littrell, a warehouse worker involved in organizing at the warehouse in Campbellsville, told ABC News that employees want the company to address the grueling pace of the work and uncomfortable heat inside the building.

"The same issues come up time and time again, and they have for many years, yet management is very apathetic toward those," he said.

The workers, who began organizing several months ago, were drawn to the worker-led nature of the ALU, he added.

"We wanted to go with a union made up of workers and people who understand our unique environment," he said.

The organizing partnerships with ALU highlight the significance of the union's victory, Rebecca Givan, a labor studies professor at Rutgers University, told ABC News.

"To prove that success is possible is huge," she said. "The inspiration to stay and organize and fight to improve things is really significant."

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