On June 13, Amazon labor leader Chris Smalls held a press conference as the National Labor Relations Board considered whether the Amazon Labor Union’s historic union victory on Staten Island in April should stand — or whether a re-do election is warranted.

This spring, workers at the largest Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, employing more than 8,000 workers, voted 2,654 to 2,131 to join the Amazon Labor Union, an organization founded by current and former Amazon warehouse workers.

Advertisement

A week after ballots were tallied on April 1, Amazon filed 25 objections to the election. Among its complaints, the company says the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in Brooklyn, which oversaw the election, favored the union and facilitated its victory.

The company also raised objections to some of the ALU’s actions, claiming that organizers harassed and threatened employees who weren’t supporting the union, including suggesting they may lose their benefits if they didn’t back the union. Amazon also claims that union organizers handed out marijuana to workers in return for their support. In fact, union leaders have spoken openly about providing workers with marijuana, but not as a bribe.

ALU lawyer Eric Milner called some of Amazon’s objections silly.

To Amazon’s allegation, that ALU observers videotaped check-in tables and voting lines, Milner explained that the evidence will show that one ALU observer kept his cell phone in a waist belt holster, but no evidence will be presented that the phone was used to record.

“If anything, the evidence in this hearing will demonstrate that it was Amazon’s observers that were the ones breaking the rules and improperly using their phones during the election,” Milner said.

Milner also addressed Amazon’s allegation that NLRB favored the union in its advice.

“Again, just totally silly. Amazon’s objections that the ALU failed to file LMRDA [Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act] forms are also silly,” Milner said. “Again, we’re at the NLRB, not the Department of Labor, and such failures, even if they were true, are not valid objections to this election.”

Amazon alleges that the ALU made misrepresentations about dues, about the support they had from other unions, and about the arrest of Chris Smalls, Milner continued. But even if the ALU made those misrepresentations, misrepresentation by a union during the union campaign is no objection.

Other points of objection Amazon made include:

  • An allegation that ALU President Chris Small was loitering in the polling place
  • ALU interfered with Amazon’s “small group meetings”
  • ALU systematically destroyed Amazon campaign materials, thereby hindering the company’s ability to communicate with its employees
  • The NLRB ordered voters to cover up Vote No shirts, but not ALU shirts
  • The ALU allegedly threatened and harassed employees

Milner said the evidence will show that Smalls was permitted to be at the polling location before and after each and every voting session and that during the voting, he was not in a restricted area.

As for the allegations that the ALU interfered with Amazon’s “small group meetings,” Milner explained that the evidence will show that what actually occurred was that individual employees expressed their valid Section 7 rights and engaged in communication and discourse with highly paid anti-union consultants.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act) guarantees employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” as well as the right “to refrain from any or all such activities.”

Milner disputed Amazon’s assertions that the ALU destroyed company campaign materials, calling it truly laughable in the face of Amazon’s well-publicized anti-union effort to the tune of $4.3 million last year alone.

“What actually happened is that the ALU successfully countered Amazon’s false narrative about unions and showed the JFK8 workers, as well as workers around the world, that in solidarity there is strength,” Milner said.

As to Amazon’s assertion that the NLRB Region 29 tipped the balance in favor of the union by ordering voters to cover up Vote No shirts, but not ALU shirts, Milner called this too, “silly,” because Vote No conveys an actual message regarding the election, whereas an ALU logo does not.

“In fact, the evidence is going to show that employees were free to wear Amazon paraphernalia in the voting tents,” Milner said. “And voters were instructed to remove ALU lanyards prior to entering the voting.”

Milner went on to say that the allegations regarding the light projection are similarly not objectionable, as are the allegations regarding marijuana. The evidence is going to show that to the extent it may have occurred it was well outside of the critical period and that it’s not relevant to this proceeding.

With respect to the allegations that the ALU threatened and harassed employees, Milner said the ALU is confident that Amazon will fail to provide any credible evidence of such an occurrence.

“If anything, the evidence is going to show that employees were afraid of, and were coerced by Amazon, not the ALU,” Milner said. “But, like a small child, Amazon is still here, still lashing out because they were unable to ram this false narrative down the throats of the JFK8 workers. And now they are seeking to blame anyone and everyone but themselves for the results.”

ALU leader Chris Smalls stressed the importance of keeping the public informed about Amazon and the lack of accountability the retail giant faces.

“We have to show the public, tell the public what is going on when it comes to Amazon, a trillion-dollar company that gets bailed out by our tax-paying dollars, that gets no accountability because the government is always bailing them out,” Smalls said. “The laws that are supposed to protect workers are not protecting workers.”

In regards to the retaliatory measures by Amazon thus far, Smalls calls the struggle between the ALU and Amazon a war.

“They have fired our members. Just last week they fired another one, Uncle Pat, that’s been with us,” Smalls said. “He flipped over 500 workers in the building, and Amazon saw that in the press conference that we held outside the building and they’ve targeted him ever since then, and they terminated him just last week.”

Smalls noted that an unfair labor practice complaint has been filed on behalf of the fired worker in an effort to get his job back with back pay.

In answer to a question about how to persuade consumers who are not necessarily union members and are not plugged in with the movement, Smalls simply said, “having a conversation, spreading awareness about it, because a lot of people are disconnected from what we go through in the warehouse.

“They have no idea. As much as we are in tune, it’s a small world when it comes to labor. Everybody knows what’s going on. The same folks. How do we get that out? How do we get this message out to people that are just disconnected? And it’s not really their fault either. Society plays a part in that. How do we get that to them? We’ve got to tell them!”