Here's what Amazon needs to do now

Amazon won its first union vote in pretty spectacular fashion. Out of the 27 Amazon machinists who voted yesterday on whether to join a union, 21 of them voted no. That's 78 percent.

An employee loads boxes onto a conveyer belt for shipping at the company's distribution center in Phoenix.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An employee loads boxes onto a conveyer belt for shipping at the company's distribution center in Phoenix.

But Amazon would be wise to make some serious adjustments in the wake of this vote.

The tension that led to the unionization effort isn't going away; in fact, it's likely to increase.

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Amazon has grown from 20,700 employees at the beginning of 2009 to 88,400 at the beginning of last year, according to the company's regulatory filings. And as the company plots further expansion, it's looking to areas like grocery, where workers have historically have taken union representation. (Safeway says 80 percent of its workforce is unionized.)

That means Amazon is becoming an important blue-collar employer. The fact is, most of the workers at Amazon are not Jeff Bezos or his executive team. They're not inventing the next drone or Kindle. They're schlepping products around warehouses, haggling with suppliers, fixing robots and forklifts.

But that's probably not how you think of Amazon; the company has created a real gap between perception and reality here. Bezos has worked hard to make it seem like magic elves are fulfilling your one-click order you just placed on your iPhone.

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Of course, that's not the case. Amazon might have to think about marketing itself differently — a little more like Costco perhaps — to set people's expectations that Amazon really is a retailer, a lot like other retailers, but with higher pay, a commitment to benefits, etc.

Because even if you're a loyal and frequent Amazon user, you never get to see these people, to know if they like their job, to sense what kind of an employer Amazon is. If Amazon wants to sell us the food we eat, even fly drones in the air over our homes, they're going to have to let us know how those workers are treated.

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Because an unhappy worker boxing up my book is one thing. Preparing my baby food and flying it to my house? That's something else.

—By CNBC's Jon Fortt. Follow him on Twitter @jonfortt

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