Amazon Labor Union
FormationApril 20, 2021; 2 years ago (2021-04-20)
TypeLabor union
PurposeOrganized labor for Amazon workers
Chris Smalls
Vice president of organizing
Derrick Palmer

The Amazon Labor Union (ALU) is an independent labor union specifically for Amazon workers, created on April 20, 2021.[1] On April 1, 2022, the Amazon workers at a warehouse in Staten Island, JFK8, backed by the ALU became the first unionized Amazon workers recognized by the National Labor Relations Board.[2]


See also: Amazon worker organization and Criticism of Amazon § Treatment of workers

The Amazon Labor Union was founded on April 20, 2021, by a labor-activist group founded by Chris Smalls called The Congress of Essential Workers (TCOEW). Smalls, along with Derrick Palmer, had organized a walkout at the JFK8 facility to protest Amazon's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had led to the firing of Smalls. Smalls' termination was widely criticized by government officials, and prompted Smalls to form TCOEW and lead a number of strike actions.[3][1][4][5]

After assessing the attacks Amazon made against the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union during the 2020 Bessemer union drive at an Amazon facility in Alabama, which initially resulted in a now-challenged vote against unionizing, Smalls concluded that he should lead a grassroots movement to organize the ALU.[1][6] Smalls explained his decision, saying to The Guardian, "If established unions had been effective, they would have unionized Amazon already. We have to think about 21st century-style unionizing. It's how do we build up the workers' solidarity."[7]

Two reporters, one with a camera, interview Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls outside of the NLRB office.
ALU President Chris Smalls speaks with reporters near the NLRB office after the release of vote results.

Over 50 Amazon warehouses contacted the ALU in attempts to organize their own workplaces, with some facilities from Canada, India, South Africa and the United Kingdom asking the ALU for assistance.[8][9]


Amazon Labour union is led by President Chris Smalls and Vice president of organizing: Derrick Palmer.

As of March 2023, the union receives all of its funding from outside groups, including a $250,000 contribution from the Omidyar Network.[10]


Derrick Palmer (at the podium) and Chris Smalls (middle) participating at a PAME event in Athens

JFK8 warehouse

Over a five-day period between March 25 and 30, 2022, workers voted for unionizing the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island.[2] On April 1, 2022, the ballot count concluded with 2,654 in favor of unionizing and 2,131 voting against, officially resulting with the creation of the Amazon Labor Union as the first independent Amazon union in the United States.[2] The New York Times described the unionization as "one of the biggest victories for organized labor in a generation" and Jacobin wrote that the ALU's achievement was "the most important labor victory in the United States since the 1930s".[11][12] President Joe Biden congratulated the union, with Press Secretary Jen Psaki stating Biden was "glad to see workers ensure their voices are heard" and that he "believes firmly that every worker in every state must have a free and fair choice to join a union".[11] Amazon submitted an objection to the NLRB, asking for a new election. The company claimed that members of the Union "intimidated employees", "recorded voters in the polling place" and "distributed marijuana to employees in exchange for their support", according to an excerpt from the complaint.[13]

On 11 January 2023, the regional director of the NLRB rejected numerous objections and certified the Amazon Labor Union as the exclusive representative for "all hourly full-time and regular-part time fulfillment center associates employed at the Employer’s JFK8 building".[14][15] Reviews and appeals were expected to continue.

Failed attempt to unionize a second warehouse

On March 2, 2022, the NLRB approved an employee election to authorize the unionization of a second of the four New York City warehouses, warehouse #LDJ5.[16] On May 2, 2022, the workers at the second New York City warehouse voted down the proposal to expand the Amazon union to include their warehouse. The vote was 618 against the union to 380 for the union, with 1,600 employees eligible for the vote.[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Greenhouse, Steven (June 4, 2021). "Amazon fired him – now he's trying to unionize 5,000 workers in New York". The Guardian. Archived from the original on June 4, 2021. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c O'Brien, Sara Ashley (April 1, 2022). "Amazon workers at New York warehouse vote to form company's first US union". CNN. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  3. ^ Rubio-Licht, Nat; Irwin, Veronica (February 8, 2022). "Amazon's union fight: Here's what's happening now". Protocol. Archived from the original on February 19, 2022. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  4. ^ Feitelberg, Rosemary (May 11, 2020). "Amazon Whistleblower Chris Smalls to Launch Group for Essential Workers". WWD. Archived from the original on February 19, 2022. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  5. ^ Evelyn, Kenya (March 31, 2021). "Amazon fires New York worker who led strike over coronavirus concerns". The Guardian. Archived from the original on February 18, 2022. Retrieved February 18, 2022.
  6. ^ Selyukh, Alina (October 25, 2021). "Amazon warehouse workers in New York file for a union vote". NPR. Archived from the original on April 1, 2022. Retrieved October 29, 2021. It's a product of a self-organized, grassroots worker group called the Amazon Labor Union, financed via GoFundMe.
  7. ^ Wong, Julia Carrie (April 2, 2020). "Amazon execs labeled fired worker 'not smart or articulate' in leaked PR notes". The Guardian. Archived from the original on April 3, 2020. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  8. ^ Oladipo, Gloria (April 6, 2022). "'The revolution is here': Chris Smalls' union win sparks a movement at other Amazon warehouses". The Guardian. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  9. ^ Selyukh, Alina (April 6, 2022). "Chris Smalls started Amazon's 1st union. He's now heard from workers at 50 warehouses". NPR. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  10. ^ Scheiber, Noam (March 31, 2023). "Strains Emerge Inside the Union That Beat Amazon - Nearly a year after its victory on Staten Island, the Amazon Labor Union is grappling with election losses and internal conflict". New York Times. The process could take months but could increase the chances of winning a contract and collecting dues, without which the union is dependent on donations from other unions and third parties. ... With no contract in sight, the union remains dependent on funding from outside groups whose appetite for donations appears uneven. The Omidyar Network, a liberal philanthropy group, recently contributed $250,000 to a worker support and education fund affiliated with the union.
  11. ^ a b Weise, Karen; Scheiber, Noam (April 1, 2022). "Amazon Workers on Staten Island Vote to Unionize in Landmark Win for Labor". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  12. ^ Blanc, Eric (April 2, 2022). "Here's How We Beat Amazon". Jacobin. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  13. ^ Clark, Mitchell (April 8, 2022). "Amazon says union and NLRB "suppressed and influenced" Staten Island election". The Verge. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  14. ^ Selyukh, Alina; Heyward, Giulia (January 11, 2023). "Amazon loses bid to overturn historic union win at Staten Island warehouse". NPR. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
  15. ^ Overstreet, Cornele A. (January 11, 2023). "Decision and Certification of Representative". National Labor Relations Board. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
  16. ^ Wakabayashi, Daisuke (March 3, 2022). "A Second Amazon Site on Staten Island Will Have a Union Election". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
  17. ^ Weise, Karen; Scheiber, Noam; Marcos, Coral Murphy (May 2, 2022). "Amazon Union Loses Vote at Second Staten Island Warehouse". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 2, 2022.