A new wave of union organising erupted during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which safety protocols and stalled wages, compounding with other social ills, produced an increased militancy among American workers. Unions also expanded into new industries, like coffee houses, computer programming, and ecommerce.
Late last week, Amazon summarily fired more than half a dozen senior managers at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, where workers recently voted to unionize, according to the New York Times.
According to four current and former employees who spoke with the paper, the managers at JFK8 warehouse were fired on Thursday in terminations outside the company’s typical employee review cycle. The move is seen as retaliation for the facility’s March vote to be represented in collective bargaining by the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), a union formed by several former employees of the facility.
The managers were reportedly fired as part of an “organizational change,” the NYT’s sources said. A statement given to the paper by an Amazon spokesperson tried to cast the terminations as part of an internal reckoning with the failures that led to JFK8 becoming the first Amazon facility to ever vote for unionization.
“Part of our culture at Amazon is to continually improve, and we believe it’s important to take time to review whether or not we’re doing the best we could be for our team,” Kelly Nantel said on behalf of the ecommerce giant.
Sputnik News has also reported on past attempts at Amazon to stifle union organizing efforts through internal reorganization, such as shifting low-tier workers onto a different internal social network where they can no longer talk to one another.
Amazon workers have long complained about the company’s lack of concern for safety, constant monitoring of workers’ every move, and long work shifts with few bathroom breaks. Christian Smalls, the head of the ALU, was fired from JFK8 early in the COVID-19 pandemic for organizing a walk-out protest with other workers after leadership dismissed their concerns about lax safety protocols for preventing the spread of the deadly airborne virus.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which regulates union activities including formation and the collective bargaining process, was preparing to charge Amazon with labor violations in the ALU’s JFK8 union drive.
Following its success at JFK8, ALU attempted to win at a second, smaller Staten Island Amazon facility, LDJ5. However, the May 2 tally of that drive ended in defeat for the ALU.