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The battle to unionize at Amazon was revealed in a documentary.

MovieThe battle to unionize at Amazon was revealed in a documentary.

The Amazon Labor Union, the first union at America's second-largest employer and one of the most significant organized labor victories in decades, is the subject of a new documentary that was screened at the festival on Sunday. The Amazon Labor Union is tracked by Union from its early organizing efforts at the JFK8 warehouse on New York's Staten Island in spring 2021, through a contentious vote to establish the union in April 2022. The approval by a two-thirds majority made JFK8 the first unionized Amazon workplace. The company appealed after the National Labor Relations Board dismissed the complaint. The film consists of verité footage of union activity on Zoom, as well as footage of Amazon-led mandatory trainings to discourage workers from supporting the union, covertly filmed by organizing employees. In a session called a captive audience meeting, an anonymous Amazon manager instructs workers to do three simple things: get the facts, ask questions and vote no to the union.

The videos show how much Amazon spent on anti-union consultants in the last two years.

The JFK8 facility employs over 8,000 workers and is the subject of a film. Lunch breaks too short to allow workers time to walk across campus to the cafeteria, minimal vacation time, inhumane treatment such as refusal of bathroom breaks, lack of PPE equipment during the Covid epidemic, racial and gender discrimination, and lack of job security are among them. Jordan Flowers, Chris Smalls, and Gerald Bryson were at the festival.

The organizers of the ALU wanted longer breaks, paid time off for injured employees and an hourly wage of $30, up from a minimum of $18 per hour offered by Amazon. According to a US Census Bureau analysis, the average wage in Staten Island is $41 per hour. Chris Smalls, the union founder and president who was fired in 2020 after helping organize a work boycott over the warehouse's lack of protective gear and hazard pay, is the focus of the documentary. The film opens in the spring of 2021, as Smalls begins to gain media attention for his organizing work. ALU leaders decided to go on their own after a meeting with one major union that was caught on camera. Smalls said that he was tired of people assuming that he was doing it for the people. The film tracks the ALU's effort to win legal legitimacy, beginning with collecting enough petitions via grassroots campaigning, including soliciting workers with free pizza and cannabis. Winning an election without support from the establishment union is next. The company responded to the election by increasing anti-union propaganda, denigration of Smalls, and threatening to refuse pay to unionizing employees. Smalls and his supporters were arrested by New York City police when they refused to leave the parking lot of the warehouse. One of the organizers of the messaging says that the film is hilarious. In one scene, a former ALU organizer named Natalie, who left the union over disagreements with its direction and advocated waiting for an established union with a "no" vote, voiced her concerns to a union leader. She wanted to be part of other organizations that appreciated what she could bring to the table instead of feeling like she was being ignored or disrespected. I can't leave one boys club at Amazon and work for another boys club in the union.

Story said that the film's verité mandate was the reason for not interviewing Amazon management or employees fighting the union. We didn't want the interviews to feel like they were out of place in the film.

The film ends on a quiet note, as the union has failed to unionize other Amazon facilities and the ALU won at JFK8. Amazon is appealing the election of the union and has refused negotiations with the ALU for a contract at JFK8.

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