Amazon workers at Moreno Valley warehouse file for union election — a first in California
Amazon workers at a fulfillment center in Moreno Valley filed a petition for a union election, the National Labor Relations Board confirmed Tuesday. It’s the first time workers at an Amazon facility in California have formally sought a union election.
The workers are seeking to join the upstart Amazon Labor Union, which mounted the first successful unionization effort at any of the company’s U.S. warehouses when it won the vote April 1 at JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, N.Y.
NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado said the Region 21-Los Angeles office had received an election petition. She said the board is waiting for additional required paperwork from the union before it can confirm that enough union cards have been collected and signed to move forward with the election process.
Organizers pushing for the union need signed cards from at least 30% of the 800-worker unit that the Amazon Labor Union is seeking to represent, according to the NLRB.
Harry Sentoso, 63, went back to work at Amazon as part of the company’s hiring wave. Two weeks later, he was dead from COVID-19.
Amazon spokesman Paul Flaningan said in an email the company does not believe union organizers have enough worker support at ONT8 to secure an election.
“While we haven’t received an official copy of the petition yet, we remain skeptical that there are a sufficient number of legitimate signatures for an election,” Flaningan said.
Amazon says there are more than 2,300 employees at ONT8 eligible to be included in the NLRB count for the worker unit.
Nannette Plascencia, a worker at ONT8, announced the union drive last month. She formed the committee United 4 Change ONT8 during the pandemic to advocate for better wages and safer conditions.
Plascencia, who has worked at ONT8 for nearly eight years, said there is a core group of about 10 workers who are pushing for the union. She said the group has not finished tabulating signed union cards.
The union win at JFK8 is being litigated through an appeals process. Amazon filed objections requesting a new election, which an NLRB hearing officer ruled against. Amazon appealed the decision to the labor board’s regional director.
At another New York facility, LDJ5, workers voted against joining the Amazon Labor Union a month after the election at JFK8. Amazon workers at the ALB1 facility in Albany, N.Y., in August filed a petition for a union election with the federal labor board; the election is scheduled to begin Wednesday.
The company has repeatedly said it discourages unions as it aims to work directly with employees rather than negotiate with what it describes as a third party.
“As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” Flaningan said last month of the union push at the Moreno Valley warehouse.
Plascencia said Amazon required workers at the facility to attend antiunion meetings starting Oct. 4. She said she and other workers were falsely told that their benefits would disappear if they unionized.
“That’s what they get paid to do — to plant the seed of doubt.... They’re starting to divide us to conquer,” she said. “Because of those classes, you could feel the toxicity in the air.... People were upset, people were arguing with each other.”
Flaningan declined to answer questions about the meetings.
“I’m proud that these brave workers have decided to take back their power and fight to unionize,” Chris Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union, said in an email. “This is still the beginning of a historical movement, and today I’m proud to say we’re nationwide from the East Coast to the West.”
The union push in Moreno Valley comes as workers at another California fulfillment center press Amazon for higher pay. A group of workers at an Amazon air freight hub in San Bernardino, KSBD, are demanding a $5-an-hour pay increase and improved safety.
Scores of KSBD workers walked off the job in August, calling for Amazon to raise the base pay to $22 an hour from about $17.
During this month’s historic heat wave, employees at Amazon’s largest West Coast air freight facility were conducting their own workplace temperature checks.
The group, which calls itself Inland Empire Amazon Workers United, said Amazon late last month offered a $1 pay increase, but workers deemed the raise insufficient.
“While we know Amazon would not have raised pay if we had not demanded it, we need $5 an hour to meet the rising costs in the Inland Empire,” the group said in a Sept. 28 statement.