Congrats to Amazon Labor Union (ALU)

ALU Founder, Chris Smalls celebrates victory in Staten Island labor victory


In one of the biggest worker victories in modern U.S. labor history, a majority of employees at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, have voted to unionize with a worker-led union that didn’t even exist a year ago. The election results mark the first time a majority of workers at an Amazon facility in the U.S. has voted to join a union.

Workers at the warehouse in Staten Island, known as JFK8, voted in favor of being represented by Amazon Labor Union, or ALU. The union captured 2,654 votes, while 2.131 voted against. Another 67 ballots were contested by either Amazon or the union, but the margin of victory was greater than the number of challenged ballots so the results are final. Amazon has five business days to file any objections, and said in a statement that it considering doing just that.

“We’re disappointed with the outcome of the election in Staten Island because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees,” the statement added.

What they really mean is that Amazon wants the unchallenged ability to control their employees without having anyone challenge their authority to do as they please.

The union efforts in Staten Island began with what has long looked like a series of bad miscalculations by Amazon executives. Back in March of 2020, ALU founder Chris Smalls, then an Amazon warehouse supervisor, led a small protest outside the facility to raise awareness around what he felt were unsafe working conditions and a lack of transparency from management during the onset of the Covid-19 crisis.

That same day, Amazon officials fired Smalls, setting off a chain of events that ultimately catalyzed the worker’s efforts and pushed his story further into the spotlight. Shortly after Smalls’ firing, the company’s top lawyer, David Zapolsky, who is white, in an executive meeting attended by Jeff Bezos, referred to the former employee, who is Black, as “not smart or articulate” and encouraged colleagues to make him the focal point of unionizing efforts in dealing with the press. Then, after Zapolsky’s notes from this meeting leaked to the press and corporate employees began to protest and question Amazon’s actions on an internal company listserv, the company fired three key corporate activists and began restricting employees’ ability to communicate on large email listservs.

The victory by the Amazon Labor Union will likely breathe life into organizing efforts at more Amazon facilities around the country. There’s already another election scheduled for late April at a separate Amazon facility in Staten Island, where workers will vote on whether they too want to be represented by Smalls and ALU.

Jay-Z and Friends Party Past Picketers

(Hat-tip to Daily Kos)

The slap got the headlines, occurring as it did on live television, but Oscars night saw another celebrity moment that deserves attention. Jay-Z held his Oscars party at legendary Hollywood hotel Chateau Marmont, as he had pre-pandemic. The difference is that this year there was an active boycott of the hotel, and the stars attending Jay-Z’s party did so by crossing a picket line. Now, one star has said she wasn’t aware of the boycott and will honor it from now on.

The union appealed to Jay-Z asking him to find a different location for his party, but the party went on at Chateau Marmont, with heavy security as union members and allies picketed.

Workers have said that in addition to the layoffs with no severance during the pandemic, Chateau Marmont practiced racial discrimination, with Black and Latino workers less likely to be promoted and some managers making racist remarks. Workers also described being expected to tolerate routine unwanted touching by guests. Balazs himself has been accused of sexually inappropriate behavior.

What’s really disappointing is the number of stars who crossed that picket line. Inside the party, fresh off his Oscar win for Summer of Soul, Questlove was DJing. “Snoop Dogg, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Winnie Harlow, Jon Hamm, French Montana, Zoe Kravitz, P Diddy, DJ Khaled, and Oscar winner Troy Kotsur were all met by protesters before entering the bash,” Page Six reported, and “Chris Pine, Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, Vin Diesel, Lupita Nyong’o and Rosario Dawson also attended the bash.” Many of these—though definitely not all—are people you’d expect to see supporting workers instead of crossing picket lines.

Dawson, who has served as a campaign surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the past, claimed on Twitter that the picketers were gone by the time she arrived and she did not know about the boycott, pledging to respect it in future. The union called on others to join her:

But let it be noted that many celebrities had already publicly supported the boycott, including Jane Fonda, Spike Lee, Issa Rae, Gabrielle Union, Samira Wiley, Robin Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, and Alfonso Cuarón. Being the Ricardos and The Offer pulled out of plans to film at Chateau Marmont due to the boycott. This wasn’t well-hidden information that no one had previously heard about.

It is disappointing and frustrating that Jay-Z, Michael B. Jordan, Rihanna, DJ Khaled, Zoë Kravitz and other Hollywood elites chose to prioritize their party, and their fame, over real people,” said Keisha Banks, a former Chateau Marmont worker. “It might just be one party to them but these are people’s livelihoods. They could be using their celebrity to get someone like Andre Balazs to listen to his workers. Why would they want to be associated with a hotel that discriminates and cheats its employees?”

Koch Industries Moves to Protect [Russian] Workers

Dave Robertson, COO of Koch Industries

Dave Robertson, president and COO of Koch Industries released the following following Russian attacks on the peaceful people of Ukraine:

The horrific and abhorrent aggression against Ukraine is an affront to humanity. It violates our company’s values and principles, which are grounded in the fundamental truth that the system most conducive to human wellbeing, progress, civility and peace is one based on respect for the dignity of the individual, the consistent rule of law and the right to freely exchange goods and services. Principles always matter, and they matter most when they are under pressure.

While Guardian’s business in Russia is a very small part of Koch, we will not walk away from our employees there or hand over these manufacturing facilities to the Russian government…

Dave Robertson statement, March 16, 2022

So, there you have it. Koch Industries, who with the assistance of the Republican Party in the United States has made every attempt to destroy safeguards for American workers will not discontinue business in Russia in the name of supporting Russian workers.

The song by Pete Seeger, “Which Side Are You On” comes to mind, and it’s clear how Koch Industries have responded to the question.

Walter T. Kenney, 1930 – 2019

Walter Thomas Kenney, son of Jacob Kenney and Lois Moore Kenney, was born in Henrico County, Virginia on December 3, 1930. Walter began his career as a postal clerk in Richmond, before later being elected by members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), AFL-CIO, in the states of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and the District Columbia to a position on the union’s national executive board.

Appointed Mayor in 1990 by members of the Richmond City Council, Kenney faithfully served the citizens of Virginia’s capital city for two terms.

Walter T. Kenney Sr., a labor leader who made history as a member of the first black majority on the Richmond City Council before making racial reconciliation a priority as mayor, died early Monday in a local hospital. He was 88.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 28, 2019

“Over an 18-year career of council service to his fellow citizens, Kenney broke down barriers and trailblazed a new way for us to build a more just and equitable city, and government,” Stoney said. “We are grateful for his leadership during this important era of change, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family today.”

Levar Stoney, Mayor of Richmond, Virginia

Kenney is survived by daughters Wilma Kenney Battle and Marvette Kenney, and a son, Walter T. Kenney, Jr.. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mamie Mallory Kenney.

 He was a fine elegant man who exuded class. My condolences to his family.

Rob Strunk, former Clerk Division Director, APWU