Amazon warehouse workers in New York’s borough of Staten Island voted to unionize on Friday, marking the first successful U.S. organizing effort in the online retail giant’s history. and delivering a surprise victory to a fledgling group that fueled the union campaign.
The votes were still tallied, but union supporters secured a wide enough margin to give the fledgling Amazon union enough support to secure a victory. Votes overturned or challenged by Amazon or the ALU did not appear to be enough to influence the outcome.
More than 8,300 eligible workers voted. Amazon provides the list of eligible workers to the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees the process. Organizers say a high attrition rate may have shrunk that pool since the scheduled election date.
Thursday evening, more than 1,500 votes had been counted in favor of unionization. Just over 1,100 opposed it.
“Being ahead from day one and winning a few hundred against a trillion-dollar company is the best feeling in the world,” said Chris Smalls, a fired Amazon employee who led the organizing campaign.
John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University, said early vote counts in New York were “shocking”. The fledgling Amazon Labor Union, which is leading the charge on Staten Island, has no support from an established union and is fueled by former and current warehouse workers.
“I don’t think a lot of people thought the Amazon Labor Union had much of a chance of winning,” Logan said. “And I think we’ll probably see more of those [approaches] go forward.”
The win was an uphill battle for the indie group, which was overtaken by the deep-pocketed retail giant. Even so, organizers say, their grassroots approach was more relevant to workers and helped prevail where established unions have failed in the past.