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Amazon Union’s NYC Victory Certified by Federal Labor Board

(Bloomberg) -- A federal regulator has certified an upstart union’s election victory last year at an Inc. facility in New York — a ruling that the company intends to keep fighting.

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In the ruling Wednesday, National Labor Relations Board regional director Cornele Overstreet rejected a slew of objections from the e-commerce company, which has sought to overturn the Amazon Labor Union’s win at a Staten Island site last April.

The Amazon Labor Union won the upset victory among about 8,000 workers at the JFK8 fulfillment center. Amazon had appealed the outcome, arguing that the labor board violated its rules in such a way that it implied a government endorsement of the ALU.

Despite the union’s latest win, the battle with Amazon isn’t over. The Seattle-based company can now appeal the ruling to labor board members in Washington, where Democrats hold a majority. If it loses that appeal, it could simply refuse to negotiate with the union, setting in motion another series of complaints and appeals that could take months or years to play out.

“We’re ecstatic right now,” ALU interim President Chris Smalls said Wednesday. “This is very historic for workers.”

The ALU leader urged Amazon to start negotiating with the union, as the regional director’s order requires. “If they’re a good company, and in good faith, and they listen to their workers, and their workers are asking them to come to the table, then they should come to the table,” he said. “But that’s still to be determined. Whatever move they make, we’ll have a move to make as a counter.”

In a statement, Amazon said it plans to appeal. “As we’ve said since the beginning, we don’t believe this election process was fair, legitimate or representative of the majority of what our team wants,” the company said.

Even without a collective bargaining agreement, official certification provides workers with protections like the ability to bring a witness to meetings that could lead to discipline, and restricts the company from unilaterally changing working conditions, ALU attorney Seth Goldstein said.

The Amazon Labor Union — a grassroots effort co-founded by Smalls, a fired employee — has lost some momentum since the Staten Island win. The group was defeated in two subsequent elections by wide margins, one at a smaller facility across the street from the original warehouse, and a second one at a site outside Albany, New York.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, meanwhile, is seeking to represent workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. Federal officials determined that Amazon’s conduct during a vote there in 2021 made a fair election impossible, but a rerun election hinges on contested ballots.

--With assistance from Spencer Soper.

(Updates with Amazon comment in seventh paragraph.)

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