On April 1st, 2022, employees at e-commerce and IT giant Amazon formed their first historic union thanks to the efforts of two fulfillment center employees in Staten Island. While Chris Smalls, the president of the new Amazon Labor Union, was fired in March 2020 after leading a protest outside of the Staten Island warehouse, Derrick Palmer remains an employee. Smalls and his partner, Palmer, will now be leading a union of about 8,300 workers.
Smalls had protested in March 2020 in response to Amazon’s alleged lack of COVID-19 protections in place for employees, such as enforced social distancing. Amazon later fired Smalls for violating social distancing rules, which he alleged weren’t in place to begin with. After being fired, Smalls set his sights on forming the Amazon Labor Union and used GoFundMe to push a campaign for higher pay, better medical benefits, anti-discrimination policies, and improved leave terms.
The Amazon warehouse in New York closed voting with 55% in favor of joining the Amazon Labor Union, despite the company’s push-back against unionization. The victory gives Smalls and his group the right to negotiate a contract with Amazon that will influence over 8,000 Staten Island warehouse employees. Smalls plans to continue his activist work, with his team already working on a second union campaign for a smaller warehouse in the same business park. Voting for that location is scheduled to take place in late April.
In Amazon’s statement, the company expressed disappointment and alleged that certain regulators played a part in influencing the voting results: “We’re disappointed with the outcome of the election in Staten Island because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees. We’re evaluating our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB that we and others witnessed in this election.”
This historic union within the world’s second largest employer comes shortly after the unionization of a Starbucks store in Buffalo, NY this past December, with two other stores in Buffalo seeking the same result. Meanwhile, an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama has just finished their voting count for what could be the second Amazon union to date. However, the National Labor Relations Board has opted for a do-over election for the 6,100 Bessemer warehouse employees in response to Amazon’s interference with last year’s vote tally.
The momentum is expected to continue, with Smalls reporting that he and Palmer have received countless emails from Amazon workers across the country asking how they can do the same for their own warehouses. Only time will tell just how many stores and warehouses will follow suit, and whether more influential companies like Starbucks and Amazon will experience similar unionization efforts.
Visit Angela’s blog to get her insights on these recent unionization efforts at large corporate entities and view her March 26, 2022 Spectrum News1 feature on her YouTube for a deeper look into the Starbucks unionization campaign.
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Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator
Twice-named a U.S. News Best Lawyer in America for employment and labor law, Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and certified workplace and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH) in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues. Furthermore, she’s been named a “Top 50 Woman Attorney” in California by Super Lawyers, a “Top California Employment Lawyer” by the Daily Journal and one of Los Angeles’ “Most Influential Minority and Women Attorneys” by the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, NewsNation, ABC News, CBS News, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Forbes.com, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Daily Journal, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.
Angela is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California dispute resolution company. She also owns her own dispute resolution law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in the mediation, arbitration, and investigation of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other workplace claims, along with Title IX, sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct conduct cases, along with hazing and bullying cases in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, fraternities and sororities; fire, police and other public safety agencies and departments; and other private and public sector workplaces.
Reddock-Wright has also launched her own radio show, Legal Lens with Angela Reddock-Wright, airing on Tavis Smiley’s new KBLA Talk 1580 radio station on Saturdays at 11:00 a.m. PT with replays on subsequent Sundays. Listeners may tune-in by downloading the APP @kbla1580 and call the PowerLines at 1-800-920-1580. You can listen to past episodes on Anchor.Fm/Spotify.
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