In a historic and stunning win for workers (and a first for Amazon), employees at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island on Friday voted 2,654 to 2,131 to unionize — “one of the biggest victories for organized labor in a generation,” The New York Times reports.
Employees will be represented by Amazon Labor Union, who won the tally by roughly 10 percentage points. Over 8,300 workers at the fulfillment center were eligible to vote. Organizers have called for “higher wages, longer breaks, paid sick leave and paid time off for injuries sustained on the job, among other demands,” NPR notes.
The union was formed by Christian Smalls after he was fired from Amazon in March 2020, NPR reports. While working as a supervisor, Smalls “staged a walkout over the lack of worker protections against the coronavirus.” Amazon says Smalls showed up to work after he’d been told to quarantine after an exposure, thus violating safety protocols.
When the results of the vote were offiical, workers and organizers celebrated on the streets of downtown Brooklyn by screaming, jumping, hugging, and even popping champagne.
“Today the people have spoken, and the people want a union,” Smalls told reporters. When asked what he would say to company founder Jeff Bezos, Small replied, “We want to thank Jeff Bezos, ’cause while he was up in space we was signing people up.”