As the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued impressive third quarter statistics on union election petitions for 2022, workers across the country continue to organize at warehouses, coffee shops, bookstores, retail outlets, and more.
Amazon employees have built on the momentum of the successful union campaign in New York City, initiating at least four other unionization drives across the country.
In North Carolina, the grassroots organization C.A.U.S.E. — Carolina Amazonians United for Solidarity and Empowerment — are working to organize a union at the Amazon Warehouse RDU1, a 700,000 square foot facility with four floors.
The workers there are seeking a $5 an hour pay increase; a return to digital time clocks rather than physical ones; longer breaks; more mental health resources; and a change to Amazon’s time-off options. The group also wants the company to form a worker committee to address grievances and appeals.
Worker organizer Albert Elliott told online publication, The Guardian- that organizing the warehouse is difficult because of the sheer size of the facility. “He said the focus on productivity and short breaks provides little time to communicate with co-workers, and there’s a sense of fear among workers who are not aware of their rights in the workplace.”
On its website, C.A.U.S.E. writes, “we are a worker-led movement defending workers’ rights and organizing to battle the corruption and exploitation by Amazon. We seek to form a union to represent all Amazon’s workers starting here in North Carolina.”
North Carolina has among the lowest percentage of unionized workers at just 3.1 percent, second to only South Carolina at 2.9 percent.
Other Amazon facilities have begun the process of unionizing. In Upper Marlboro, Maryland, two workers with Amazonians United, another independent organizing group of Amazon workers, filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB claiming they were fired for their union activity. The two led union petition drives and organized a walkout of the facility in March.
In Kentucky, a 22-year-old warehouse worker, Matthew Littrell is attempting to unionize his Campbellsville warehouse, SDF1. Littrell says he was inspired by the union effort in New York City. Joining the Amazon Labor Union, the group that sought to unionize JFK8, Littrell and a group of coworkers launched the campaign as a new chapter of the ALU.
Working at Amazon as a picker since 2021, Littrell says, “they don’t invest anything here as far as our safety goes, and as far as keeping the facility at a reasonable temperature. In some areas, it gets horribly hot, and you feel like you are suffocating because there’s no ventilation.”
Littrell has also filed an unfair labor practice charge for what he says is pushback he has received from management. He says he has been written up for productivity and had the police called on him while he was leafleting outside in the parking lot in June.
The Kentucky ALU has set up the Solidarity Fund of the SDF1 Action Committee on zeffy.com to raise funds to support their campaign. The organizers say donations will be used as a safety net to fellow workers who may be retaliated against by Amazon.
In Albany, NY, workers are collecting signatures from their fellow employees at ALB1 Fulfillment Center to join the ALU. There, about 400 employees are eligible to join the union. The union campaign manager and Amazon employee Heather Goodall said the group chose the ALU because they believed in the effectiveness of grassroots organizing. The Albany group has set up a fundraising website on Donorbox.org. On the site, they say they are “demanding better pay, benefits, and working conditions for all Amazonians. The only way we’re going to get the company to concede is by leveraging our power as a collective-organizing and becoming a strong, democratic, worker-led union.”
ALU president Christian Smalls and cofounder Jordan Flowers say that the new chapters of the ALU will receive organizing and financial assistance from the union. “We’re going to assist them 100 percent,” said Smalls. “Whatever they need: Resources, money, going out there.”
**New York City Amazon Union Win Challenged by Company **
The historic win by the ALU in New York City has been challenged by Amazon. The company is arguing in a legal filing that union organizers and the National Labor Relations Board acted in a way that tainted the results.
In an April 9 filing, the company accused the Amazon Labor Union of intimidating workers to vote for the union, a claim an attorney representing the group called “patently absurd”.
The case is currently being heard by the NLRB. Company filings show that Amazon spent about $4.2m last year on labor consultants.
**Starbucks Organizing Wave Continues**
Since the first Starbucks store in Buffalo, NY successfully organized the Starbucks Workers United Union in 2021, 189 stores in 30 states have voted in favor of unionizing. And 313 stores in 36 states have filed to unionize as of mid-July. You can see the full map of unionized stores and where organizing campaigns are happening on the website https://perfectunion.us/map-where-are-starbucks-workers-unionizing/
In July, Starbucks announced that it was closing 16 U.S. stores, two of which are unionized and a third that has publicly expressed interest in forming a union. The company says the closures are due to safety concerns, but the union believes it is a violation of labor law.
The Seattle chapter of Starbucks Workers United said Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is “blatantly breaking the law” by shutting down unionized stores rather than bargaining in good faith with workers.
The National Labor Relations Board said closing stores with active union drives was part of Starbucks’ “vigorous antiunion campaign” in a June 21 filing seeking injunctive relief for fired union workers in Buffalo. Schultz has been resistant to organized labor at the company, and has said he’ll never embrace a Starbucks union.
**Apple Store Employees Make History with First Successful U.S. Union**
Another surprising union win comes in Towson, Maryland, where the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), organized employees at the Apple Store.
The union, calling itself Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE) is an affiliate of the IAMAW.
According to a statement from the IAMAW, the organizers sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook informing him of the decision to organize their union, listing “access to rights we do not currently have” as the motivation behind their desire to unionize.
In mid-June, the more than 100 employees voted overwhelmingly to join the union.
“They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election,” said IAMAW International President Bob Martinez. “I ask Apple CEO Tim Cook to respect the election results and fast-track a first contract for the dedicated IAM CORE Apple employees in Towson. This victory shows the growing demand for unions at Apple stores and different industries across our nation.”
**Trader Joe’s Employees File for Election in Massachusetts**
At a Trader Joe’s in Western Massachusetts, employees filed for a union election, the first for the retailer with more than 500 locations and 50,000 employees. The election would form an independent union, Trader Joe’s United. About 85 employees are eligible to vote. Maeg Yosef, an 18-year employee and union leader told the New York Times that over 50 percent of the workers at the store support the union.
Yosef said the changes to retirement benefits and health care were among the reasons the workers are looking to unionize. As well, health and safety concerns stemming from the pandemic were cited by Yosef.