Workers at a massive Amazon distribution center in Staten Island, New York, made history on Friday by voting to form a union, marking the first time ever that employees of the country's second-largest company had been unionized.
The move, which surprisingly came to pass without much support from national labor unions, was immediately reported to be one of the most notable achievements for organized labor in decades.
But perhaps even more shocking is the fact that the union was formed despite Amazon spending exorbitant amounts of money solely for the purpose of preventing such an action from taking place.
According to financial disclosures filed with the U.S. Department of Labor — and obtained by the Huffington Post — Amazon spent a whopping $4.3 million on anti-union consultants last year as part of its effort to combat the organizing campaigns.
The outlet added that many of the consultants were paid as much as $3,200 a day for their services, which included holding frequent "captive audience discussions" aimed at dissuading employees from unionizing. In many, if not all cases, attendance at such meetings was required.
Two of the places the anti-union consultants were sent were Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, fulfillment center — where the company narrowly beat back a second union challenge this week — and Amazon's JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island.
Furthermore, an Economic Policy Institute study from 2020 found that companies rarely ever spend more than $1 million on anti-union campaigns — and that total is usually only amassed over the course of multiple years. In Amazon's case, $4.3 million was spent in just one year.
The cash total shows the tech giant was extremely motivated to squelch unionization attempts, perhaps fearing that one successful union effort could domino into others as was the case for Starbucks over the past year.
The massive online retail and web services company said in a blog post on Friday, "We’re disappointed with the outcome of the election in Staten Island because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees."
Outside the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) offices in Brooklyn, New York, where the vote-counting was being conducted, Amazon Labor Union leader Christian Smalls popped a bottle of champagne and said, "to the first Amazon union in history," Insider reported.
"We want to thank Jeff Bezos for going to space because when he was up there, we was signing people up," Smalls, a former Amazon warehouse worker and rapper, added. "We were out here getting signatures."