Amazon Employees in New York Vote to Unionize

Amazon lost a major battle with organized labor for the first time on Friday as workers for the company at a facility on New York’s Staten Island voted in favor of unionizing.

Just over half of the 8,300 workers at the Amazon warehouse participated in the vote, with 2,654 voting in favor of unionizing and 2,131 voting against.

The New York Times wrote that the first loss for Amazon could signal additional unionization wins in the near future, citing a similar cascade effect that hit Starbucks in multiple locations. Pressures from large unions, independent workers groups, and the progressive activist organizations that support them could create growing pressure on Amazon to change its traditional view of organized labor.

Amazon hired new workers aggressively around the globe during the pandemic and now employs around 1.6 million people. At the same time, pandemic effects have led to greater worker turnover and a growing sense of power in the workplace among workers who have long complained about work conditions at Amazon facilities.

Another unionization effort among Amazon workers in Alabama has stalled out, although worker votes have been contested and have not yet been resolved. The Alabama effort has been led by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.

The history of unionizing efforts like the one now playing out for Amazon has often seen companies make significant concessions to avoid formal worker organization. Amazon is likely to consider increasing pay and benefits while making workplace modifications that will keep workers satisfied and non-union.

Amazon’s stock price closed the day Friday after the vote up 0.35 percent at $3,271.20 per share. The company’s stock traded at $1,906.59 two years prior on April 3, 2020, as the pandemic began its strongest impacts on the American economy.

The pandemic is still providing lessons in labor relations to all employers as workers continue to hold a strong position because of the damage done to the labor market and the global supply chain. Amazon might lead the way in setting an example of how to keep workers happy by anticipating the changes that unions would demand without the associated cost to the company, customers, and ultimately the workers.