The Amazon Labor Union, which made history in April by unionizing the first Amazon warehouse in the US, lost its latest campaign today, at a facility in Schodack, New York. Workers voted 406 to 206 against joining the union, the second loss out of ALU’s three unionization campaigns at Amazon warehouses.
The result is a setback for workers seeking more say at Amazon, which is a staunch opponent of unionization and has spent months challenging the sole successful campaign, in Staten Island.
“We’re proud of the brave workers in upstate New York who stood up in the face of a vicious anti-union campaign to challenge a trillion-dollar corporation,” ALU president Chris Smalls wrote in a statement, saying the union would continue to organize in Schodack. He claimed the vote was unfair because Amazon subjected workers to daily intimidation aimed at preventing a union win.
Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel welcomed the result today in her own statement. “We’re glad that our team in Albany was able to have their voices heard, and that they chose to keep the direct relationship with Amazon as we think that this is the best arrangement for both our employees and customers,” she wrote.
Today’s vote brings the tally of Amazon warehouses that have attempted to unionize to four. After winning its first election at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island in April, the ALU lost a second election at a smaller warehouse across the street. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union held a rerun election to represent workers in Bessemer, Alabama, this year, but the result remains too close to call.
The union defeat at the ALB1 warehouse in Schodack, near Albany, follows a week of labor unrest at Amazon, which coincided with last week’s Prime Early Access Sale. Workers at two facilities in Georgia and two in Illinois walked out over demands ranging from pay raises to protections against injury and sexual harassment. On the same day, workers in Moreno Valley, part of California’s Inland Empire logistics hub, filed for the first ALU election in California. Three days later, workers at Amazon’s nearby air shipping hub in San Bernardino went on strike, demanding wage hikes and improvements to working conditions.
The campaign defeated today has its roots in the personal history of lead organizer Heather Goodall. She took a job picking and packing items for shipment at ALB1 in February in an attempt to find out if the news she’d read about Amazon’s tough working environment was true. Her interest in workplace conditions developed after one of her sons took his own life, becoming one of a series of suicides and murder-suicides by employees of chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries, which she believes were related to a poor working environment. (GlobalFoundries has said employee health and safety is a priority and that it offered 24/7 counseling.)
Goodall soon concluded “that the rumors were true,” about Amazon’s harsh working conditions. She witnessed injuries, high turnover, and signs telling workers “No Covid pay. No excuses” in defiance of state law, she says. Ambulances are a common sight outside the warehouse, Goodall says, and one once came for her after her heart condition flared up while on shift. “When you see it on a daily or weekly basis, it becomes normalized, and people stop questioning it,” she says.