THE AMAZON WORKER organizing happening in Chicago — under the banner of Amazonians United Chicagoland — looks different from the ongoing high-profile union drive in Bessemer, Alabama.

In Alabama, nearly 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers have been casting votes on whether to form a union with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Voting continues through March 29, and if a majority votes in favor, it would mark the first Amazon union in the United States. (The only previous election, at a warehouse in Delaware in 2014, failed.) The Washington Post reported that more than 1,000 Amazon workers in other parts of the country have contacted the RWDSU about potentially launching their own union organizing drives, and President Joe Biden recently offered support for the workers.

In Chicago and in other cities, including New York City and Sacramento, there are worker-led Amazonians United groups that consider themselves unions, though they are not affiliated with any formal legally recognized union like the RWDSU.

“We are not affiliated with any legal organization that claims to be a union, especially major business unions, many of whom have tried to recruit us,” said Miin. He said that they support the Amazon workers in Bessemer and did not rule out affiliating with a formal union in the future but that they have a different approach to worker organizing. Miin added that affiliating with a legal union would be a decision determined democratically by the workers later when and if they felt ready.

Amazonians United Chicagoland got its start in April 2019, when a handful of DCH1 workers came together to demand clean water be made available to them in the warehouse. Their five-gallon water stations were often left open to dusty air and were never clean, and there were often no cups available, they said. Workers collected 150 signatures from colleagues protesting the conditions, and after delivering the petition to management, Amazon consented to provide water.

Later that summer, workers banded together again to organize for air conditioning, health insurance, and a pay increase, and by the fall, workers organized around a manager they felt was abusive. Miin says their largest campaign was their successful effort in early 2020, before Covid-19 hit, to push for paid time off. Their organizing was inspired by a similar PTO campaign launched by Amazon workers in Sacramento in December 2019. In a formal update dated March 20, 2020, Amazon confirmed that the workers could begin taking paid time off.

While the workers are celebrating their not-yet-official victory at the NLRB, their latest fight is against a new policy Amazon began rolling out in January known as “megacycle” shifts. These 10 1/2-hour shifts, which run from 1:20 a.m. to 11:50 a.m., were presented to DCH1 workers as new nonnegotiable work schedules going forward. Vice reported in February that the megacycle shifts were being rolled out quietly at delivery stations nationwide, collapsing multiple shorter shift options into one long one. Workers noted that the new option leaves no flexibility for parents and caretakers. Amazon also recently announced it would be closing the DCH1 warehouse, shutting down operations on April 2.

Amazonians United is fighting back, and recently launched a new petition for megacycle accommodations, with demands that include a $2-per-hour pay increase, Lyft rides to and from work to compensate for inaccessible public transit after midnight, and flexibility for associates who can’t work the full shift. They say if Amazon tries to split them up into different warehouses, they’ll respond by organizing new warehouses.

“I think we’d be really naive to believe closing DCH1 was in no way related to the organizing we’ve been doing,” said Miin.