By HALELUYA HADERO
Amazon warehouse workers rejected a union bid on Monday, dealing a blow to organizers who last month pulled off the first successful U.S. organizing effort in the retail giant’s history.
Votes were still being tabulated, but ballots cast against the union were enough to fend off a second win for the nascent Amazon Labor Union, a group of former and current Amazon workers leading the organizing effort.
Ballots that were challenged by either Amazon or the ALU were not enough to sway the outcome.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
A federal labor board on Monday has begun counting ballots cast by warehouse workers in a second Amazon union election on Staten Island.
The National Labor Relations Board is overseeing the election and expects to finish tallying the votes by Monday afternoon.
A separate election held last month gave a nascent group of organizers known as the Amazon Labor Union a surprise victory when workers at a different Staten Island facility voted in favor of unionizing. That was a first for Amazon in the U.S.
But it’s unclear whether the ALU can replicate its success. There are fewer workers eligible to vote this time around — about 1,500 compared with 8,300 — and turnover at the facility is high. There are also fewer organizers involved in the latest election than the one before it.
The same obstacles that plagued the effort the first time, including Amazon’s aggressive anti-union tactics, are at play again. In the lead-up to the election, Amazon continued to hold mandatory meetings to persuade its workers to reject the union effort, posted anti-union flyers and launched a website urging workers to “vote NO.”
“Right now, the ALU is trying to come between our relationship with you,” a post on the website reads. “They think they can do a better job advocating for you than you are doing for yourself.”
Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement its employees choice whether or not they want to join a union. But “as a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” Nantel said. “Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work.”
A second labor win could give workers in other Amazon facilities — and at other companies — the motivation they need to launch similar efforts. It could also cement the power and influence of the ALU.
However, a union loss could mute some of the recent labor celebration and raise questions about whether the first victory was just a fluke.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s bound to be a tough road ahead for the ALU. Amazon has disputed the first election, arguing in a filing with the NLRB that the vote was tainted by organizers and by the board’s regional office in Brooklyn that oversaw the election. The company says it wants a redo election, but pro-union experts believe it’s an effort to delay contract negotiations and potentially blunt some of the organizing momentum.
Meanwhile, the final outcome of a separate union election in Bessemer, Alabama, is still up in the air with 416 outstanding challenged ballots hanging in the balance. Hearings to review those ballots are expected to begin in the coming weeks.
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