Workers stand in line to cast ballots for a union election at Amazon's JFK8 distribution center, in the Staten Island borough of New York City, U.S., March 25, 2022.
Workers stand in line to cast ballots for a union election at Amazon's JFK8 distribution center, in the Staten Island borough of New York City, U.S., March 25, 2022. Reuters / BRENDAN MCDERMID

Results from union elections at an Amazon.com Inc warehouse in New York and another in Alabama started coming in on Thursday, with counts so far showing a potential landmark victory for organized labor at a Staten Island warehouse.

The tally in Alabama indicated Amazon workers had narrowly rejected unionizing, with 53% of workers voting against it. However, the final outcome is expected to hinge on challenged ballots that have yet to be addressed. That is a much different situation from last year when workers sided with Amazon by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

If final results show workers at either location voted for a union, it would be a historic first at the online retail giant, which has long opposed organized labor.

Union drives have picked up momentum during a nationwide labor crunch. Nine U.S. Starbucks stores have voted to unionize, with more than 150 more seeking elections. Workers at another Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, LDJ5, will also vote on whether to unionize starting on April 25.

With 2,200 ballots counted from workers at Amazon's JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, about 57% of votes were in favor of creating a union with more ballots left to count, according to a Reuters tally of the count overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and streamed over Zoom. That count was expected to continue on Friday at 9:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT).

About 1,900 ballots have been counted from workers in Bessemer, Alabama. In that contest the union has said there are 2,375 ballots total, including hundreds of ballots outstanding that were contested.

Neither the union nor labor board has said how many ballots were received in Staten Island.

As the second-largest U.S. private employer, Amazon has long been a focus for labor advocates who hope that a single union victory will spark organizing efforts across the country.

The vote counts starting Thursday may not result in a final determination. Ballots that either side challenged as invalid would be addressed after the count in the event of a close election and could alter the outcome. In addition, parties can object to conduct around the vote that could set aside the results as happened last year in Alabama.

A simple majority of votes cast is needed to win.

Workers at the company's JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island voted in person over a six-day period that began on March 25. They are voting on whether to form a new union, the Amazon Labor Union.

A rerun of last year's failed union organizing campaign at Amazon's warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, concluded on March 25. Workers there voted by mail. They are voting whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

The NLRB found that Amazon improperly interfered in the original contest, which the company won by a 2-1 margin.