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Amazon Workers in Staten Island, NY, Seeking Vote to Unionize

Some 2,000 Amazon workers in the New York City borough of Staten Island are petitioning the NLRB to enable a union a vote.

Warehouse workers at Amazon's  (AMZN) - Get Free Report facilities in the New York City borough of Staten Island have petitioned to form a union, another high-stakes battle by the tech and online-retail giant's staff for better conditions.

More than 2,000 workers across four Amazon delivery and packaging facilities in the borough have signed a petition asking U.S. labor authorities to enable a vote.

The new Amazon Labor Union, started by current and former Amazon employees, must obtain signatures from 30% of the 7,000 workers at the facilities, Bloomberg reported.

The union on Oct. 25 plans to file with the National Labor Relations Board to enable an election. The NLRB will determine whether the organizers have met the threshold to hold the vote.

The vote would be a major challenge to the Seattle tech and online-retail giant, which has steadfastly opposed unionizing efforts.

The Verge and other outlets are reporting that the union effort is led by a former Amazon Staten Island worker, Christian Smalls.

He was fired in March after he helped organize a walkout at an Amazon warehouse to protest unsafe working conditions during the pandemic. Amazon has said Smalls was fired for violating safety regulations.

Shares of the Seattle company at last check edged 0.3% lower to around $3,426.

"We intend to fight for higher wages, job security, safer working conditions, more paid time off, better medical leave options and longer breaks,” the Amazon Labor Union said Thursday in a statement cited by Bloomberg.

Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in a statement to TheStreet: “Our employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union. They always have. As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees.

"Every day we empower people to find ways to improve their jobs, and when they do that we want to make those changes — quickly. That type of continuous improvement is harder to do quickly and nimbly with unions in the middle."

Amazon added that it had made "great progress in recent years and months in important areas like pay and safety."

"There are plenty of things that we can keep doing better, and that's our focus — to keep getting better every day," said Nantel.

Amazon has said pay at its warehouses averages $15.30 an hour.

In April, Amazon's warehouse workers in Alabama voted against a labor union. The effort was organized by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

But in August an NLRB hearing officer said that Amazon interfered with the election by installing a mailbox to collect ballots and by distributing paraphernalia encouraging employees to vote not to organize. The official urged that the election be rerun.

In 2020 union members working in transportation and warehousing earned 34% more than nonunion workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.