When workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, officially became unionized on April 1, election politics was not the first thing anyone thought of.
Observers across the country instead hailed the result of the union election at the JFK8 facility as a historic victory for the labor movement, not least because it was achieved by an independent union with no resources from a more established labor group.
But since the union victory took place in New York’s 11th Congress district, a swing seat that Democrats hope to repeat in November, Democratic candidates have flocked to express solidarity with the workers and are already using union success as a hug to the Republican rep. Nicole Malliotakis.
“What an incredible achievement by a grassroots organization here on Staten Island that is hosting the largest company in the world,” former Representative Max Rose, the Democrat deposed by Malliotakis, tweeted.
Rose, who made the seat blue in 2018 with the support of major unions, is running again with the blessing of the Democratic congressional campaign committee, the House Democrats’ campaign arm. Rose also attended a solidarity meeting convened by the Amazon Labor Union in last in March and spoke against March 2020 launch by an organizer, employee Christian Smalls, who went on to found and lead the Amazon Labor Union.
Rose, however, has competition to the left in New York’s primary election on June 28.
Brittany Ramos DeBarros, a progressive activist running against Rose with the support of Workers’ Family Partyspoke by one rally and press conference convened by the Amazon Labor Union outside the warehouse complex in August. Ramos DeBarros, an Afghan war veteran who became an anti-war crusader, was present when union leaders announced the results in Brooklyn on April 1. And on Friday, Smalls, now president of ALU, supported Ramos DeBarros.
“When it comes to standing up for the working class people on Staten Island, I think Brittany Ramos DeBarros is the candidate for everyone,” Smalls wrote in a message that Ramos DeBarros shared on Instagram.
HuffPost followed up with Smalls via email to seek further information about his decision to support Ramos DeBarros and his thoughts on Rose, but did not receive a response.
Either way, both candidates have said more about the trust election than Malliotakis. In the days following the vote in the Amazon, Malliotakis, a former state assembly woman, did not comment on the union election.
HuffPost obtained Malliotakis last Thursday when she walked into the U.S. House of Representatives to cast a vote.
Asked about the results of the union’s vote, Malliotakis did not go beyond an expression of respect for the outcome of a legal process.
“Great! They had a voice – good for them,” she said.
The state of Iceland is a stronghold of union members, with unions representing about 32% of the district’s workers.
Traditionally, Republicans from union-heavy areas have shown greater support for organized labor than their counterparts in the rest of the country.
But when Parliament passed the law on the protection of the right to organize in March 2021 – landmark legislation on labor reform that would have made it easier to organize – Malliotakis was not one of the five Republicans who joined the Democrats in vote for the PRO Act.
“Labor has been used and abused by both parties for decades, and Nicole is sadly the latest in a long line of politicians to do the same,” Rose told the HuffPost in a statement. “In Congress, I helped lead the fight to pass the PRO Act and pushed back on NAFTA 2.0 until it removed the giveaways for Big Pharma, and I never hesitated to accept special interests that tried to screw over organized labor. . ”
“What was achieved on Staten Island is historic, and for Congresswoman Malliotakis to classify it as just ‘they had a choice’ is disgraceful and shows whose side she is on,” he added.
When Ramos DeBarros was asked about her reaction to Malliotakis’ comments, it seemed to take issue with the status quo in both parties.
“This is a victory for workers around the world who are tired of the status quo,” she said in a statement. “This is not an opportunity for representatives (or former) to do it about themselves, and it is disappointing to see them claim to be supporters of a movement and society they have left behind.”
A spokeswoman for Malliotakis did not respond to further requests from HuffPost for a response to criticism of her comments about Amazon’s union vote and her vote against the PRO law.
Early in her tenure, Malliotakis seemed eager to polish her credentials with hard-line supporters of former President Donald Trump. She was one of 147 Republicans in the House and Senate who voted against confirming the results of at least one state in the 2020 presidential election.
But Malliotakis has cast at least one high-profile, bipartisan vote, giving her support for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law in November.
“I voted proudly for the two-part infrastructure package that will improve the security and prosperity of communities across America and make the necessary improvements to bring our infrastructure into the 21st century,” she said in a statement.
Since then, Democrats who dominate New York’s state legislature have redesigned New York’s 11th to include more liberal parts of Brooklyn and fewer conservative enclaves. After the redistribution, New York’s 11th went from a seat that Trump won by about 10 percentage points in 2020 to one that Biden would have won with a slightly larger margin.
The Republicans who have challenged the new card in court received one favorable decision on March 31st. A Republican judge at the state Supreme Court threw out the new boundaries, claiming the card was “unconstitutionally drawn with political bias.”
Democrats believe they will succeed in overturning the appeal decision. Either way, they expect a more favorable district for the party than the one where Malliotakis won in 2020.
Malliotakis’ vote against the PRO law and lack of more enthusiastic support for the Amazon union is a responsibility, according to Sal Albanese, a former New York City councilor and moderate Democrat who now lives in Staten Island.
“Labor is not unpopular on Staten Island,” Albanese said.
At the same time, Malliotakis’ overall stance on unions is likely to be less important on the police-heavy island than her support for law enforcement and opposition to police criticism, according to Albanese, who lost a city council race in November despite almost unanimity. support from organized labor.
In fact, Malliotakis’ credibility with law enforcement unions, all of which supported her in 2020, may be the union she needs most.
“There are a lot of working people who are voting Republican because of cultural issues,” he said.
Malliotakis previewed this strategy in her interview with HuffPost on Thursday, saying she planned to emphasize how she believes democratic policies have contributed to both inflation and an increase in crime.
“We see Democrats tying the hands of the police and introducing policies that drive up crime,” she said.