Workers in a New York City warehouse have been celebrating becoming the first Amazon site to unionize in a movement spearheaded by fired Amazon worker Chris Smalls and current employee Derrick Palmer. Workers at the Staten Island Amazon facility voted to form a union on April 1 after a hard-fought battle with the e-commerce giant.
The Amazon union movement has empowered other low-wage workers, especially employees at Walmart and Dollar Tree, to do the same.
Amazon workers held a Solidarity Sunday on April 24 rally where they were joined by progressive Democrats and longtime supporters Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders New York City Congressional Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. AOC had initially been proactive in supporting Amazon workers’ efforts to unionize, which started in 2021. When she failed to show up to planned rallies over the last few months, Smalls and other workers called out AOC for her fading support, The New York Daily News reported.
During the April 24 rally, Smalls said, “We’ve gotten to a point where workers are organizing themselves! We got emails from Walmart, Dollar Tree, everywhere. Workers will take over everywhere…this is the revolution.”
Walmart workers will have to work hard against strong resistance to unions by the retail giant.
Walmart workers have for years been trying to unionize, and the Amazon victory seems to have spurred them on again. In 2015, The Atlantic published an article about how Walmart pressures its workers not to unionize. When employees have tried, there has been a backlash. For example, the meat department of a Walmart store in Texas in 2000 became the retailer’s only operation in the U.S. to unionize. Two weeks later, Walmart announced they it longer needed the meat department workers as the store was switching to prepackaged meat. The company eliminated butchers at that store and 179 other workers.
Walmart is “one of the nation’s most aggressive anti-union companies, with a long history of trying to squelch unionization efforts,” The Atlantic reported.
“People are scared to vote for a union because they’re scared their store will be closed,” said Barbara Gertz, an overnight Walmart stocker in Denver, in the 2015 Atlantic report.
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Some locations of the discount chain Dollar Tree have also expressed interest in unionizing, said Smalls. And so have employees at rival Dollar General.
In 2021, four afternoon-shift workers at Dollar General No. 18060 in Barkhamsted, Connecticut, began to unionize. They are battling a company with yearly revenue approaching $34 billion, more than 157,000 employees, and 17,683 stores, not one of which was unionized, The Washington Post reported.
Dollar General admits to being anti-union. “We believe our union-free status is one reason we continue to grow and provide employment while many unionized companies have declined,” the company wrote in the third paragraph of its 2015 employee handbook, The Washington Post reported.
Photo: Amazon Union Organizer, Chris Smalls at a rally organized by the Amazon Labor Union, Staten Island, New York, April 24, 2022. ( Erik Nielsen/MediaPunch /IPX)