Amazon center in New York votes to unionize, according to initial results

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An Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, appears poised to become the company’s first facility to unionize, according to the results of a vote.

The center, known internally as JFK8, will become part of an independent labor group called the Amazon Labor Union.

The vote was close: 2,654 yeses to 2,131 nos — a difference of just 523. The results still have to be certified by the National Labor Relations Board.

If the vote is declared official, Amazon will be forced to conduct collective bargaining with employees at the facility. This could be a challenging task — potentially taking years or never even becoming a reality.

Labor experts note that if Amazon were to agree to a deal with the union early on that was ultimately deemed acceptable by the group, it could encourage other locations to start unionizing as well.

While Amazon workers overseas have formed unions, this would be a first for the U.S.

Amazon has been highly resistant to unionization, spending over $4 million in 2021 on consultants to help it block union organization efforts.

It’s also invested heavily in marketing campaigns encouraging people to apply for jobs and highlighting the benefits of working for the company, including health insurance and other benefits.

This comes after years of allegations by current and past workers of dangerous working conditions inside the company’s massive warehouses.

Other workers have alleged the company maintains strict tracking of worker productivity, making it difficult for them to take breaks or use the restroom and still meet goals needed to keep their jobs.

These issues were compounded during the coronavirus pandemic as the company tried to incorporate social distancing and PPE inside its facilities even as it was facing labor shortages and surges in demand for home-delivered products as shoppers stayed away from stores.

Others point to Amazon’s high turnover as both indicative of the alleged poor working conditions and strenuous work for what many see as below market value pay and a challenge for labor organizers. Some of these leaders say employees often aren’t with the company long enough to become interested in unionization and, if they do, may fall victim to the alleged “hire and fire” practice the company uses.

Amazon, meanwhile, has been posting high revenues and profits thanks to the surge in pandemic online shopping — and appears likely to continue to churn out money as many stick with online shopping even as the U.S. emerges from the pandemic.

The company has turned its top executives into billionaires while the company uses a variety of legal methods to avoid paying any taxes on corporate profit, though it’s often quick to point it out it contributes millions every week in payroll taxes.

The company is also known for its use of automated systems and robots in its warehouses, which are often pricey but one-time investments that can replace or supplement the work of a human. The company says it uses automation and robots to eliminate repetitive movements, avoid having workers lift heavier items and assist its workers in completing tasks that can’t be fully automated.