Amazon’s first labor union ‘pretty much broke’: report

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By Dan Sears

Amazon Labor Union, the first group of Amazon workers to organize in the US, is reportedly struggling to make ends meet and is far from establishing a labor contract with the e-commerce giant, according to a report.

ALU’s vice president Michelle Nieves told The Wall Street Journal that the organization is “pretty much broke.”

Chris Smalls, the ex-Amazon worker who heads the organization, also told the outlet that the group doesn’t have much money, as its funding has tapered off since 2022 when it received more than $750,000 in donations and reported net assets of roughly $118,000.

Since then, ALU has tumbled into debt from its legal fees. It will file an updated financial report with the Labor Department in the coming months.

Its leadership is also in turmoil, The Journal reported, though its mounting financial hardships are proving to be a more pressing obstacle.

ALU’s woes come less than a year after the group after the company’s New York City workers voted in favor of unionizing workers at its Staten Island warehouse, called JFK8.

A year after its victory against Amazon, the Amazon Labor Union has burned through its $750,000 in donations and is struggling to make ends meet, according to The Wall Street Journal. REUTERS
ALU’s vice president Michelle Nieves (pictured) said that the ALU is “pretty much broke.” Michelle Valentin Nieves/X

During the vote, which took place in March, fewer than 5,000 voted in the union election, though roughly 8,300 workers are based out of the JFK8 warehouse.

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The vote was 2,654 in favor and 2,131 against unionization, National Labor Relations Board officials disclosed at the time.

Since its inception, the union has since relied heavily on donations for its operations — much of which has already been spent, Smalls told The Journal.

In addition, the union can’t collect mandatory fees from workers at this point because it doesn’t have a contract with Amazon.

“We don’t have what we had before. The other established unions are not helping us,” Smalls said, per The Journal, referring to the American Federation of Teachers’ $250,000 donation and the SEIU United Healthcare Workers West $25,000 gifts in 2022.

However, neither organization made a donation to ALU in 2023.

“We lost a year, unfortunately,” he added of the union’s issues in recent months. 

ALU is headed by Chris Smalls, a former Amazon worker who was fired from his warehouse job in 2020 for protesting working conditions. Corbis via Getty Images

Smalls also shared that he lost support after voicing support for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in October.

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“Posting about Palestine, lost a few thousand followers. Then I got people all in dm [direct messages] talking about they supported me against Amazon,” Smalls shared to X at the time.

“It’s Viva Palestine all day,” he added.

The ALU has also been unsuccessful in organizing other Amazon warehouses after workers at the ALB1 facility in upstate New York voted against unionizing.

And though workers at other bases in California and North Carolina have pushed for labor union contracts, a vote has yet to take place.

Organizers have pushed to negotiate with Amazon over higher pay and greater job security.

Amazon, meanwhile, has consistently pushed anti-union messages to its workforce, warning staffers that union dues could cost them “hundreds of dollars each year from your paycheck.” 

Amazon even set up a website that criticizes the ALU for “making big promises but offering very little detail on how they will achieve them.”

ALU is based out of Amazon’s warehouse in Staten Island, known as JFK8. REUTERS
Smalls has struggled to get other Amazon warehouses to follow in JFK98’s footsteps. At a facility in upstate New York, workers voted against unionizing. AFP via Getty Images

The website says ALU “has no experience representing any associates, anywhere” and the organization has “never managed the millions of dollars they would receive from your paychecks.”

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Company executives also plotted to smear Smalls, holding a strategy meeting in 2020 that included founder and then-CEO Jeff Bezos where they called him “not smart or articulate,” Vice reported just after the union’s victory. 

Smalls was fired from his Amazon warehouse job that same year after leading a protest over working conditions. He continued to show up at the JFK8 warehouse to bring food to employees in the break room — until Amazon called the cops and had him arrested for trespassing.

Representatives for the ALU and Amazon did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

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