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Amazon Union Maintains Commanding Lead in New York Election

(Bloomberg) -- The upstart labor union founded by a fired Amazon.com Inc. worker maintained a commanding lead in a historic election to unionize one of the e-commerce giant’s facilities in New York.

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As of 10:25 a.m. local time on Friday, the Amazon Labor Union had 1,750 yes votes compared with 1,313 no votes from workers at a warehouse in Staten Island. With only 67 disputed ballots so far, the final tally could arrive in the next few hours.

If the ALU’s lead holds, the outcome would mark a watershed moment for Amazon. The Seattle-based company has managed to keep unions out of its U.S. operations for more than a quarter-century and would have to start contract negotiations that potentially could hamper its ability to adjust work requirements and scheduling on the fly.

Christian Smalls, 33, started the ALU with little help from organized labor and limited funds. To win hearts and minds, he employed unconventional tactics -- tweeting photos of Amazon consultants he deemed “union-busters,” encouraging employees to disrupt the company’s anti-union meetings inside the warehouse and handing out literature in the facility’s parking lot.

“I say what I say and that’s what got me here,” Smalls told Bloomberg before the election. “The same thing with the union: It represents what the workers want to say.”

Read more: Amazon Fired and Disparaged Him. Then He Started a Labor Union

In Bessemer, Alabama, meanwhile, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union trailed in its efforts to unionize an Amazon warehouse but produced a much stronger showing than last year, when it lost by a 2-1 margin. Amazon was leading with 993 votes versus 875 for the union when the counting stopped on Thursday, but with 416 disputed ballots requiring review, the race was too close to call.

In Alabama, the RWDSU leaders had a freer hand to campaign than they did last year, when the pandemic was still raging. The second election was called after the union successfully disputed the results of the first vote, alleging that Amazon intimidated workers and pressured them to cast votes in a mailbox the company had installed on its property in view of security cameras. Amazon denied any wrongdoing.

The National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing to determine which of the disputed ballots in Alabama should be counted. That process, and the potential for legal challenges to the vote, means getting to a final tally could take weeks.

“We believe that every valid vote must be counted and every objection heard,” RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said in a press conference after ballots were tallied on Thursday. “Workers here deserve that.”

(Updated with latest tally.)

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