Amazon workers in New York warehouse vote to form union By Reuters

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© Reuters. Mat Cusick, Communications Lead of the Amazon Labor Union, volunteer Drisana Hughes, Brett Daniels, Director of Organizing for the Workers Committee of Amazon Labor Union and Angelika Maldonado, Chairwoman of the Amazon Labor Union Workers Committee gathe

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By Doyinsola Oladipo and Nivedita Balu

(Reuters) -Workers at an Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:) warehouse in New York City have voted to form the first union at the second-largest U.S. private employer, a victory for the new, independent union that adds to recent success by labor activists pushing into new industries.

Employees at the online retailer’s fulfillment center in the borough of Staten Island, known as JFK8, secured a majority by voting 2,654 to 2,131 in support of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), or about 55% in favor, according to a count released on Friday by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The vote represented a victory for U.S. organized labor and a milestone for labor advocates, who for years have considered Amazon’s labor practices a threat to workers.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

It added that it is evaluating options including filing objections based on inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB.

The NLRB said Amazon has until April 8 to file any objections to the election.

Assuming the vote clears any objections and the union is certified by the NLRB as representing employees, union negotiators would still have to bargain with Amazon in order to deliver on expectations of better compensation and working conditions.

Geebah Sando, a package sorter who voted for the union after working more than two years at JFK8, said he was thrilled.

“With the union together, we are united,” Sando said, adding that the labor group could help workers advocate for better pay, break and vacation time.

Union organizer Christian Smalls, dressed all in Amazon Labor Union red, raised a hand in victory after the win. ALU members popped champagne in celebration as Smalls and other officials exited the NLRB offices following the count.

Many doubted Smalls when he announced plans to unionize JFK8 last year, but he set up a tent outside the warehouse while supporters in the building touted how a union could demand higher wages, safer conditions and job security.

Dan Cornfield, a labor expert and professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University, called the vote a “momentous victory for working people who are doing homegrown union organizing.” Cornfield said he expects the win to accelerate the already rapidly growing labor activism across the U.S. retail sector.

“It’s almost like a David and Goliath type of victory,” Cornfield said. “There’s already a wave (of activism) occurring, and this will encourage more of that.”

At an Amazon facility in Alabama, by contrast, a majority of workers rejected unionization, though the outcome was not final.

The Alabama contest could hinge on 416 challenged ballots to be adjudicated in the coming weeks, which are sufficient to change the result, the NLRB said. The situation is far different from last year when workers sided with Amazon by a more than 2-to-1 margin against unionizing.

The number of employees eligible to participate in the Staten Island vote was 8,325, the NLRB said.

Shares of Amazon rose less than 1% in afternoon trading to $3,263.28.

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