Amazon workers hold impromptu strike after Staten Island warehouse fire

More than 100 Amazon employees staged a three-hour walkout 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 battled a dumpster fire at a shipping dock adjacent to the JFK8 warehouse. No one was injured, according to the New York City Fire Department, who were called to the scene around 4:00 p.m. ET Monday.

Amazon Labor Union (ALU) President Chris Smalls said around 500 employees were refusing to return to work. Amazon put the number at 100 and said another 1,000 continued to work. The workers, who had knocked down tools, occupied the personnel office and demanded paid time off for the night, as motherboard reports.

“All employees have been safely evacuated and day shift employees have been sent home with pay,” Amazon spokesman Paul Flaningan said Gothamist. “The FDNY has certified the building to be safe and at this point we have asked all night shift workers to report in for their regular 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.”

The warehouse workers voted to form a union earlier this year. Amazon has challenged the election result. Last month, a hearing officer recommended that the National Labor Relations Board dismiss Amazon’s claims that the vote was invalid and authorize the union. Pending further appeals, Amazon has not entered into union contract negotiations.

Meanwhile, workers at another Amazon warehouse are scrambling to join ALU. An election will be held later this month at a logistics center outside of Albany. Amid union efforts across the company, Amazon this week announced it would increase workers’ hourly wages.

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