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Amazon workers in New York City vote to form first U.S. union at retail giant

Amazon workers on Staten Island vote to unionize
Amazon workers on Staten Island vote to unionize 00:21

Amazon workers at a Staten Island, New York, processing facility won a historic vote on Friday to form the first-ever collective bargaining unit at the ecommerce giant. 

With 2,654 votes in favor and 2,131 votes against, the overwhelming victory will allow more than 8,000 workers at the facility to team up with the Amazon Labor Union. The ALU was formed last year by Chris Smalls, a process assistant at the warehouse who was fired in March 2020 for organizing protests over Amazon's COVID-19 protocols.

"Amazon wanted to make me the face of the whole unionizing efforts against them…welp, there you go!," Smalls wrote on Twitter shortly before the vote tally was finalized. "We worked, had fun and made history."

According to the National Labor Relations Board, 8,325 workers at the facility were eligible to vote. Both sides challenged 67 ballots, which is not enough to affect the outcome. The NLRB said the union and Amazon now have seven days to challenge the final result.

An Amazon spokesperson told CBS News they were disappointed in the outcome. "We're evaluating our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB that we and others (including the National Retail Federation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce) witnessed in this election," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Boost for labor

The victory is expected to reverberate across the country as labor activists have long fought to unionize workers at Amazon, the country's second-largest private employer. In another win for labor, workers at seven Starbucks stores have voted in recent months to unionize, including one in the coffee chain's home city of Seattle, Washington. Workers at more than 150 Starbucks stores have filed to hold union elections with the NLRB.

The ALU's list of demands for Amazon calls for immediate changes to health and safety policies, as well as higher pay, more promotions and better working conditions. The union is asking Amazon to raise associates' pay by 7.5% to match inflation, reinstate 20-minute breaks and provide a shuttle for workers.

The union victory comes the day after vote counting concluded in the second union election at Amazon's Bessemer, Alabama warehouse. About 52% of workers voted against unionizing in that election, but a large number of challenged ballots could affect the outcome.

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