A U.S. labor representative on Wednesday dismissed Amazon.com Inc.’s objections to a historic union-election victory at a warehouse in Staten Island, N.Y. last year, following months of aggressive efforts by the online retailer to squash the organizing effort. Amazon said it would appeal the decision, which came from a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board. Barring a request for board review of the decision by Jan. 25, the e-commerce giant would be legally obligated to bargain with the union, the Amazon Labor Union, a labor board spokeswoman said.
The labor board can move forward with or deny that request. Christian Smalls, the union’s co-founder and president, said in a tweet that the union beat Amazon “fair and square,” and said now was the time for the company to agree to a contract. Workers at the Staten Island warehouse, known as JFK8, voted last year to be represented by the Amazon Labor Union, despite heavy opposition from Amazon. Amazon later contested the union election results, accusing the labor board of effectively helping the union win that election. “We knew it was unlikely that the NLRB Regional Office would rule against itself, and intend to appeal,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement on Wednesday. “As we’ve said since the beginning, we don’t believe this election process was fair, legitimate, or representative of the majority of what our team wants.” The NLRB, in a statement Wednesday, said that Cornele Overstreet, a regional director with the agency, agreed to overrule all the objections against the Amazon Labor Union and the board that had been brought by Amazon. After both sides made their case, a hearing officer in September “concluded that the employer’s objections should be overruled in their entirety,” the labor board said Wednesday. The regional director issued a report on Wednesday agreeing with those findings, the labor board said. Unionization efforts by the Amazon Labor Union have run into difficulties elsewhere. In May, employees at a second Staten Island warehouse voted against joining the union, and workers at a facility near Albany, N.Y., in October also voted against unionizing. Separately, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union has been overseeing a unionization drive at a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. The National Labor Relations Board decision arrives as Amazon and other retailers try to balance rising costs — particularly via wage increases and stronger benefits — and investors’ expectations over the bottom line, amid a drop-off in demand for many products typically sold online. The Wall Street Journal last week reported that Amazon planned to lay off more than 18,000 employees, and the company in October forecast fourth-quarter sales that were below expectations at the time. Shares of Amazon finished 5.8% higher on Wednesday. But the stock is down 43% over the past 12 months.