Amazon fires Staten Island organizer in what workers see as anti-union retaliation
Fired Amazon Labor Union organizer Pat Cioffi is seen here with Sen. Bernie Sanders at a rally outside Amazon JFK8 facility on Staten Island in New York, April 24, 2022. El organizador sindical despedido de Amazon, Pat Cioffi, se ve aquí con el senador Bernie Sanders en un mitin frente a las instalaciones de Amazon JFK8 en Staten Island, Nueva York, el 24 de abril de 2022. | Seth Wenig / AP

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.—On June 9, Pasquale “Pat” Cioffi, a worker and lead organizer with the Amazon Labor Union, was fired by Amazon from his job at the company’s JFK8 warehouse. The attack is part of a larger campaign of worker repression since JFK8’s successful unionization on April 1, 2022. The company has continued to terminate any pro-union workers who are outspoken against the oppressive working conditions at Amazon.

Before JFK8 held the unionization election, Cioffi was highly respected by his supervisors and fellow employees because he worked hard and looked out for his fellow workers. But once the unionization process began, Amazon initiated multiple investigations against him, with the company searching for any opportunity to terminate him. Cioffi’s presence as a respected pro-union worker threatened Amazon’s ability to unjustly influence workers against the union. As a result, the company needed to retaliate and remove him.

Cioffi has been a shift supervisor, also known as a Process Associate or a PA, at Amazon for years, since leaving his previous job as a longshoreman where he was represented by the International Longshoremen’s Association. After Cioffi decided to get involved with the Amazon Labor Union earlier this year, he personally helped flip hundreds of workers to vote yes for the union.

After the victory, Cioffi encouraged other workers to become organizers and fight for their rights. Management stepped up its efforts against the well-liked warehouse leader, searching for any reason to fire him. Amazon then claimed Pat slapped a manager and was verbally abusive towards her. Witnesses say this is patently false, and Amazon refuses to release video evidence.

The company is using a variety of tactics against the union, including an aggressive campaign of hiring union busters, investing in anti-union propaganda signs and banners, and illegally firing workers. This attack on Cioffi is an escalation of other firings of workers generally and particularly of ALU supporters.

Since the union election victory, Amazon has returned to what the company calls “pre-COVID policies,” making excuses to fire people left and right, and are implementing what some workers refer to as a “reign of terror” on Staten Island.

Some JFK8 workers speculate this firing spree is an attempt to “clean house” and fill the warehouse with workers who weren’t around for the campaign, in the hopes that thousands of fresh faces will kill off the union.

According to federal labor law, it is illegal to fire a worker for organizing a union. However, the company often avoids accountability by instead claiming these workers are not meeting productivity rates. This excuse protects the company from facing legal repercussions for breaking labor law by firing workers who want to build a union.

As documented previously, the company is spending millions of dollars to stop union drives from succeeding. For example, during the unionization effort in Bessemer, Ala., pro-union workers were offered $2,000 to quit so they could be replaced with workers who would be neutral or vote against the union.

But the Amazon Labor Union refuses to accept such an illegal attack on workers’ rights at JFK8. On June 11, a delegation of ALU organizers traveled to Phoenix, Ariz., to protest Amazon’s attempt to overturn JFK8’s victory as the first Amazon facility in the country to vote ‘yes’ for a union. Amazon has filed over 25 objections against the historic victory, with many of the complaints claiming the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was partial toward the ALU. The hearing for these objections began June 13 at NLRB Region 28, in Phoenix. The union demands the ALU be recognized by Amazon and that both negotiations and a contract are drafted for the rights of all workers.

The union plans to file charges with the NLRB on behalf of Cioffi and will request immediate 10-J injunctive relief. The ALU will also continue to defend all workers whenever their rights are threatened. This includes getting fired workers their jobs back, as in the case of Gerald Bryson, who was reinstated after a long legal battle after he was unlawfully terminated by the company. (Amazon had also fabricated claims against Bryson that he had verbally assaulted another employee, a tactic they seem to employ to get rid of successful organizers.) This is in addition to the fights to secure higher wages and safe working conditions within the facility for current workers.

Finally, one of the ALU’s demands is for Amazon to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday and pay workers holiday pay. In a company that relies heavily on the labor of its predominantly Black and brown workforce, the union says there is no excuse for not recognizing the abolition of slavery in the United States.

ALU members have printed up educational materials to hand out to workers at the warehouse about what’s going on with continued organizing, the union’s legal battles, and the unlawful firing of Cioffi. The union is discussing potential plans of action in solidarity with Cioffi, ranging from worker protests and shop floor actions to rallies with outside supporters. Union organizers are demanding Amazon “Bring back Pat!” The ALU will defend workers against Amazon’s attempts at retaliation and continue to fight until the union is recognized and workers’ demands are secured.


Jacob Buckner
Jacob Buckner

Jacob Buckner writes from New York. Jacob Buckner escribe desde Nueva York.