“Stalled Progress: The Challenges Facing Union Victories for US Workers at Amazon”


Over a year ago, workers at Amazon in Staten Island, New York achieved a significant victory by winning the right to organize the company’s first-ever union, despite a vigorous anti-union campaign. This triumph was expected to spark a wave of union victories, but as time has passed, the momentum has waned and securing another union election win at Amazon has proven elusive.

Roadblocks to Union Victories

Amazon remains strongly opposed to unionization and has actively worked against union organizing efforts in its warehouses. Critics argue that the legal framework in the United States and issues with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – the federal agency responsible for labor law enforcement – have hindered progress for the new labor movement.

Complicating matters further, internal conflicts and disagreements over future strategies and tactics have plagued the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), which gained prominence following the Staten Island victory. Some union leaders have even resigned in protest, citing concerns that the focus on traveling and public appearances has overshadowed the crucial first union contract fight at JFK8.

Even the victory at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island has encountered obstacles. Amazon has appealed the election results and delayed the start of negotiations with the Amazon Labor Union.

Challenges faced by Amazon Workers

In the past year, Amazon has opposed subsequent union elections and union organizing campaigns at various sites, while also grappling with accusations of unfair labor practices. These allegations range from worker firings to restricting access to the workplace for organizing workers.

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An alarming figure reveals that Amazon spent over $14.2 million on anti-union consultants in 2022. This substantial expenditure has raised questions about the flaws in the current National Labor Relations Board process and the extent to which existing labor laws favor anti-union employers.

Replicating the Staten Island Victory

Thus far, no Amazon union campaign has come close to replicating the success in Staten Island. The Amazon Labor Union (ALU) fell short in several union elections, both in Albany, New York, and at another warehouse in Staten Island. Similarly, a union election petition filed in California was withdrawn shortly after its submission. However, the union is currently lending support to a union campaign in Kentucky and at Amazon’s air hub near Cincinnati, Ohio.

Another independent union organizing effort called Cause has been diligently working to organize Amazon workers in the Fayetteville, North Carolina, region since January 2022.

In Bessemer, Alabama, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union experienced a setback when their rerun union election ended without a decisive outcome due to ongoing adjudications of unfair labor practice charges and unresolved objections to the election process.

The Struggle for Labor Law Reform

Unfortunately, efforts to pass comprehensive labor law reforms in Congress have reached an impasse. Although the House approved the pro-union Pro Act, endorsed by President Joe Biden, in 2021, the bill did not advance to a Senate vote. The Pro Act has since been reintroduced in both the House and Senate this year. Nevertheless, with the House now under Republican control, it is unlikely to garner the required support.

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Organizing Beyond Union Elections

With the unionization drive facing obstacles, alternative measures for organizing Amazon workers have emerged. The Athena Coalition, comprising various worker centers and non-profits, has concentrated on supporting workers at Amazon and their efforts to gather public support through petitions and organizing walkouts. These actions aim to address the grueling working conditions at Amazon, such as high injury rates, inadequate treatment of injured workers, constant surveillance, productivity pressures, low job security, high turnover, insufficient bathroom breaks, and substandard pay rates.

Personal Stories: The Reality of Amazon’s Workers

Anna Ortega, an employee at Amazon’s KSBD air hub in San Bernardino, California, joined the organizing efforts after witnessing the positive impact of a petition on compensating workers for site closures. Ortega and her fellow workers have petitioned, rallied, and organized walkouts to demand improved heat protections, better treatment for injured workers, and a $5-an-hour wage increase.

Jennifer Crane, a single mother working as a packer at Amazon’s STL8 warehouse in St Louis, Missouri, shared her concerns about numerous injuries she has witnessed and the excessive demands placed on workers to meet productivity goals. Crane stressed the need for a more reasonable workload, additional breaks, and a workplace that prioritizes employee well-being over expedited order fulfillment.

Workers Taking a Stand

Workers across different Amazon warehouse sites have staged walkouts and submitted petitions to address health and safety concerns, economic issues, and policies that fall short of the desired standards. Warehouse Workers for Justice, a worker center based in Joliet, Illinois, has played an active role in organizing and supporting Amazon employees at the MDW2 warehouse. These workers demand improved compensation, including a living wage of $25 per hour, as they strive to secure fair treatment, safer working conditions, and greater job stability.

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Similarly, workers in Georgia have engaged in walkouts and protests, filing multiple unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB. Local organizer Aliss Lugo, associated with United for Respect at Amazon, highlighted the stark contradiction between Amazon’s self-proclaimed treatment of its workers and the reality described by Amazon employees. Working tirelessly to raise awareness and pressure the company, Lugo emphasized the importance of community involvement and alternative methods of elevating worker concerns outside of the traditional union election process.


The path to union victories for Amazon workers in the United States has encountered significant challenges. Anti-union resistance from the company, flaws in labor laws, legal disputes, and internal union differences have impeded progress. However, workers continue to persevere, seeking improvements in working conditions, higher wages, and better job security. They aim to bring attention to their cause through various organizing efforts, ensuring that the voice of the Amazon workforce is heard.

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