More than 100 Amazon employees conducted a work stoppage for around three hours after a fire broke out at a fulfillment center on Staten Island, New York. Night shift workers were moved to a break room as firefighters tackled a dumpster fire on a shipping dock next to the JFK8 warehouse. No one was injured, according to the New York City Fire Department, which was called to the scene at around 4PM ET on Monday.
Amazon Labor Union (ALU) president Chris Smalls said around 500 employees declined to return to work. Amazon put the figure at 100 and said another 1,000 kept working. The workers who downed tools occupied the human resources office and demanded paid time off for the night, as Motherboard reports.
Warning ⚠️ Workers screaming EVACUATE yet Amazon refuses to let Night Shift be excused with pay the burnt chemicals from the compactor still linger by docks hundreds of workers want to go home. Amazon will be held accountable @amazonlabor ✊🏽 pic.twitter.com/XOpiRHLkQH— Christian Smalls (@Shut_downAmazon) October 4, 2022
“All employees were safely evacuated, and day shift employees were sent home with pay,” Amazon spokesperson Paul Flaningan told Gothamist. “The FDNY certified the building is safe and at that point we asked all night shift employees to report to their regularly scheduled shift. While the vast majority of employees reported to their workstations, a small group refused to return to work and remained in the building without permission."
Workers at the warehouse voted to form a union earlier this year. Amazon has contested the results of the election. Last month, a hearing officer recommended that the National Labor Relations Board should reject Amazon's claims that the vote was invalid and authorize the union. Pending further appeals, Amazon has not started union contract negotiations.
Meanwhile, workers at another Amazon warehouse are seeking to unionize with the ALU. An election will be held at a fulfillment center outside of Albany later this month. Amid unionization efforts across the company, Amazon this week announced it will increase hourly workers' pay.
Happening Now‼️ after a raging fire on ship dock 500 plus workers sat in the break room demanding to be sent home with pay for safety due to the smoke. @amazonlabor Lead organizes are now Marching on the Boss with hundreds of workers!✊🏽 #Alllaborwinter#ALU#UnionStrongpic.twitter.com/PsBrj27NKj— Christian Smalls (@Shut_downAmazon) October 4, 2022