Primed to organize: Amazon union election on Staten Island must play out cleanly

·2 min read

After years of a cratering national labor movement, it’s a point of pride that New York remains a union town. While we’ve had our differences with unions and particularly public sector unions on everything from vaccine mandates to subway operation costs to charter schools, our city’s strong tradition of worker organization has been a boon to working people trying to make it here. Unionization may not be for every industry or every employee, but when a critical mass of workers wants to band together to demand better wages and working conditions, more power to them.

That’s precisely what associates at Amazon’s sprawling fulfillment center on Staten Island aim to do; they’ve filed a petition, supported by signed cards from 2,000 workers, to form a union. It now falls to the National Labor Relations Board to set up an election for the roughly 7,000 employees to make the decision that’s right for them.

The notoriously anti-union conglomerate must let this consequential process play out fairly and avoid shenanigans like those that marred an organizing drive in Bessemer, Ala. There, an NLRB official examined and upheld allegations that the company improperly distributed anti-union literature and implied that it could monitor a mailbox it had installed on its property. Though it probably goes too far to call the election rigged, there may well be cause for a do-over.

Amidst the Staten Island campaign, Amazon would do well to remember that New York’s public institutions and vigorous ecosystem of labor organizations will have workers’ backs as they navigate the referendum. Of course, we might have even greater leverage and many more workers to assist had Amazon’s second headquarters in Queens not been blocked by shortsighted activists and allied legislators.

Even still, there is plenty the city can do to show Amazon employees that this is a good place to organize and fight for collective rights, and that dirty tricks will not be tolerated. Let this be a clean election, one whose potential success Amazon must respect, whether by choice or kicking and screaming.

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