News & Commentary

October 13, 2022

Anita Alem

Anita Alem is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s News & Commentary: Amazon workers in warehouses in Illinois and Georgia stage a walk-out in advance of the Prime Day Early Access sale, while elections begin at ALB1 and ONT8 files for election; Apple refuses to extend benefits to unionized workers; NLRB judge rules Starbucks violated labor law by firing pro-union employees and using cops to disperse union protestors; Home Depot workers in Philadelphia set to vote on November 2 and 5 on union election; and an NLRB judge lays the potential groundwork for reinstating Joy Silk and facilitating card check union recognition.

Amazon warehouse workers in Joliet, Illinois and Stone Mountain, Georgia, staged walkouts on Tuesday, coinciding with Amazon’s Prime Day Early Access sale. In Joliet, workers reportedly demanded a $25 per hour minimum wage and that Amazon respond to health and safety concerns, as well as racial discrimination and sexual harassment issues at the warehouse. Similarly, workers in Stone Mountain demanded a $24 per hour minimum wage. Warehouse workers in San Bernardino, California, and Buford, Georgia, may also be staging labor actions later this week

While Amazon faces demonstrations from warehouse workers around the nation, workers at the ALB1 facility in Albany, New York, began voting Wednesday on whether to join the Amazon Labor Union. Voting will continue through Monday and ballots are set to be counted on Wednesday, October 18. The vote comes on the heels of a fire at the ALB1 facility, which was the third fire at an Amazon warehouse last week. Meanwhile, the first Amazon facility in California filed for a union election. Warehouse workers in Moreno Valley, California, a location known as ONT8, will vote to join ALU as well, assuming that the union can demonstrate it achieved at least 30% support among the 800 workers. 

Apple, taking a page from the Starbucks playbook, is refusing to extend its newly increased health and education benefits to workers at its only unionized location in Towson, Maryland. Apple did not extend the same benefits to the workers, who are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, through the bargaining process. Later this month, Apple workers in Oklahoma City will be holding a union election, and it remains to be seen if Apple’s move will impact the election. 

Turning to Starbucks, a judge at the NLRB ruled that the coffee chain violated federal labor law when it fired four pro-union employees, and required that Starbucks reinstate these employees with backpay. The judge also found Starbucks unlawfully increased enforcement of its dress code policy and had police disperse workers who were picketing, and demonstrated anti-union animus. Starbucks continues to allege that the four workers violated company policy. To date, Starbucks has been accused of firing more than 80 pro-union employees. 

The NLRB has set a date for the union election at a Home Depot in Philadelphia. The 274 workers will vote to join a new, independent union called Home Depot Workers United, on November 2 and 5

Finally, a judge at the NLRB reportedly made a ruling on Wednesday that may lay the groundwork for returning to Joy Silk, a doctrine that enhances workers’ ability to unionize via card check. Under the modern Gissel doctrine, even if a union has majority support via card check, an employer may nonetheless refuse to recognize the union as long as it does not commit sufficiently serious ULPs during a subsequent election. NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo has signaled interest in returning to the Joy Silk doctrine, which permits an employer to question the legitimacy of a card check only if acting in good faith. On Wednesday, for the first time in more than fifty years, a judge found an employer had not acted in good faith, a key aspect of the Joy Silk analysis, although the judge ultimately mandated a Gissel bargaining order.

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