By Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) – Dozens of Amazon.com Inc warehouse workers in New York City have sued their union, the first in the company’s history, alleging that top union officials are refusing to hold democratic elections to fill leadership posts.
The lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal court on Monday represents an escalation of internal disputes within the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) formed last year after it won an election at the Staten Island warehouse but lost two others in New York.
The union’s April 2022 victory at the warehouse, known as JFK8, was a historic victory for the labor movement driven by concerns over worker safety including an alleged lack of protections for warehouse workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amazon is challenging the results of the election before a U.S. labor board and has yet to engage in bargaining with the union. The company is not involved in the new lawsuit.
Monday’s lawsuit was filed by about 40 members of the ALU, including several workers who helped to spearhead organizing efforts at JFK8.
It accuses Christian Smalls, the union’s president, and what it calls his “hand-picked” executive committee of refusing to hold officer elections and membership meetings, making changes to the union’s bylaws without holding a vote, and having threatened critics with legal and disciplinary action.
The ALU did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Smalls and the union in the past have said that the rift is racially charged, as many of the dissidents are white and the ALU’s leaders are not, and that the organizing strategies preferred by their critics would be ineffective.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs in Monday’s lawsuit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit accuse the ALU of violating a federal law governing unions’ internal affairs and its own constitution.
They are seeking an order requiring the ALU to hold officer elections by Aug. 30 under the supervision of an independent monitor and striking down changes that ALU leaders made to the union’s original bylaws.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Howard Goller)
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