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Are NYC Amazon warehouse workers about to unionize?

On Behalf of | Jan 27, 2022 | New York Labor Law Blog |

Workers must navigate a number of legal hurdles before becoming eligible to form a union, as Amazon employees at a warehouse learned this past fall. Recently, those same workers overcame the obstacle that once held them back, moving one step closer to becoming fully unionized.

Resilience pays off

In November of 2021, the Amazon workers had to withdraw their petition with the The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after encountering problems with gaining enough signatures to allow for a vote.

This time, they submitted more than 2,500 signatures, far more than the needed mark of 30% of workers (there are around 5000 workers at the warehouse.) The petition, if successful, would allow a full election in which workers could cast their votes to decide if they wanted to unionize or not.

The upper echelons of management are casting doubt on the relevance of the development, at least in their public-facing response. “We’re skeptical that there are a sufficient number of legitimate signatures,” said a spokesperson from Amazon corporate headquarters in Seattle, “and we’re seeking to understand how these signatures were verified.”

A history of resistance to unions

This is yet another union-related news story for the online giant, coming on the heels of a dispute with warehouse workers in Alabama. in that case, the NLRB determined that Amazon destroyed trust in an election by placing a mailbox at the employee entrance. In a settlement with the NLRB, Amazon agreed to allow its employees to organize without retaliating.

Where the attempt to unionize will go from here will not be determined until after a court hearing on February 16th. As workers learn to harness the power of organizing, they also learn the number of legal challenges unions face before and after their formation. This is one instance in which workers overcame an early challenge to seize eventual success.