By Nathan Polacek, Staff Writer
Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) is a giant of a company that most of us likely interact with in some way each and every day, whether it is buying from their Amazon.com marketplace or their Whole Foods stores, watching a movie on Prime, or even going on one of the many websites running on AWS. Amazon has a valuation of $1.7 trillion and employs 1.6 million people with over 2 million sellers on their marketplace. Recently, Amazon has been faced with criticisms over their employment practices and their efforts to impede unionization at distribution centers.
Last year, a class action was brought against Amazon by employees at a Pennsylvania warehouse for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) by requiring employees to go through mandatory security screenings without pay. The FLSA was enacted to prevent detrimental labor conditions in commerce and ensure a minimum standard of living for workers. The FLSA additionally defines hours worked for the purpose of complying with the minimum wage and overtime hours. While Amazon touts a starting wage of $18.25 an hour and great benefits, such as their new program paying for all college costs for eligible front-line employees, most employees will not get to enjoy such benefits due to Amazon’s high turnover rate within its distribution centers.[6, 7, 8]
After the rejection of a union by employees at an Amazon distribution center in Alabama, the first Amazon union has received a vote of approval by employees at the Stanton Island distribution center on Friday, April 1st. The union vote passed by 2,654 to 2,131 for the union at the distribution center of 8,000 employees. Amazon issued a statement stating it was disappointed in the outcome of the election and insists that maintaining a direct employment relationship would be more beneficial to the distribution center employees. Amazon has stated its intent to file an objection with the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), alleging interference and undue influence by the NLRB in the election. The NLRB is tasked by statute with assuring fair labor practices by protecting employees’ right to organize through the use of the NLRB’s Office of General Counsel attorneys and Administrative Law Judges. The “interference and undue influence” Amazon alleges stems from a petition seeking an injunction by the Regional Director of the NLRB requiring Amazon to rehire Amazon Labor Union (“ALU”) lead organizer Christian Small for “illegally” firing Small in 2020.[14, 15] Amazon stands by its firing of Smalls, citing Covid-19 social distancing violations and yelling obscenities at co-workers as justification for his termination.[16, 17] Amazon is not a stranger to union election results being invalidated, as the NLRB has held the Alabama distribution center vote against forming a union as invalid on account of a mailbox Amazon installed in the center’s parking lot during voting.
A new union election for the Alabama distribution center was held on March 31st and, although the results are still contested, it is likely to fail to pass. Any impact the union election will have on the Stanton Island workers will likely not be felt for some time as Amazon and ALU are likely in for a fight to start negotiations as Amazon raises its objections. And once Amazon and ALU finally begin contract negotiations that are likely to be contentious, according to Bloomberg Law, it takes on average 409 days for a bargaining agreement to be signed. Many employment lawyers and large non-union companies are likely going to be watching where Amazon’s 1st union goes from here, whether Amazon’s objection fails and the upcoming union collective bargaining agreement negotiations, as it is going to set a precedent for unionization efforts going forward in both Amazon and other currently non-union companies.
 Heimbach v. Amazon.com, Inc. (In re Amazon.com, Inc., Fulfillment Ctr. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) & Wage & Hour Litig.), 255 A.3d 191, 192 (Pa. 2021).
 29 U.S.C.S. § 202(a) (Lexis+ through Pub. L. 117-81).
 29 U.S.C.S. § 203(o) (Lexis+ through Pub. L. 117-81).