Amazon workers vote against unionizing at upstate NY warehouse : NPR

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Organizer Heather Goodall, who works at Amazon’s warehouse near Albany, N.Y., leads supporters of the Amazon Labor Union in a march on Oct. 10.

Lucas Willard/WAMC


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Lucas Willard/WAMC


Organizer Heather Goodall, who works at Amazon’s warehouse near Albany, N.Y., leads supporters of the Amazon Labor Union in a march on Oct. 10.

Lucas Willard/WAMC

Amazon warehouse workers near Albany, N.Y., have voted no to a union, delivering a blow to the fledgling effort to organize employees at one of the country’s largest employers.

More than 900 Amazon employees were eligible to vote on whether to join the upstart Amazon Labor Union, federal officials said. The vote tally was 406 votes against unionizing to 206 votes in favor.

The ALU previously made history when it won a union election on Staten Island in New York, unionizing Amazon’s first U.S. warehouse, one with more than 8,300 workers. Later, it fell short of winning enough votes to unionize a second warehouse on Staten Island in New York.

After decades of successfully fighting off labor organizing attempts as it grew into one of the nation’s top employers, Amazon has now faced five union elections in less than two years. With Tuesday’s result, unions have so far prevailed in only one of the five.

At the Albany-area warehouse, workers voted in person for four days, casting ballots in a tent in the facility’s parking lot. National Labor Relations Board officials tallied them by hand in a process streamed over live video on Tuesday.

Federal labor officials gave the go ahead to the union election after assessing the number of signatures gathered by organizers. Rules require them to submit signatures from 30% of the workers they seek to represent. The union had estimated about 400 workers were eligible to vote, though Amazon later said the warehouse employed more than 800 people.

Pro-union workers at the warehouse have advocated for higher pay and cite various safety concerns. Earlier this month, a fire broke out; an investigation is ongoing. Organizers have also accused Amazon of intimidation and retaliation, while the company staged mandatory meetings for employees aimed to discourage pro-union votes.

Amazon representatives have said that meetings were to educate workers about the process of joining a union and that the company made hundreds of changes related to operations and safety based on employee feedback. Amazon touts its benefits and wages, with starting pay of warehouse and delivery workers increasing to $16 an hour beginning this month.

Under mounting scrutiny for its worker policies, Amazon in December reached a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board aimed at making it easier for employees to organize. Still, the company continues to face numerous charges of unfair labor practices, which it rejects.

ALU President Chris Smalls — a warehouse employee fired by Amazon after he helped stage a pandemic-era walkout — said in the spring that he heard from workers at dozens of additional Amazon warehouse interested in unionizing. Last week, Amazon workers in California became the latest to petition for a vote to join the ALU.

Shortly after the ALU’s Staten Island success, workers at another, smaller Staten Island warehouse voted against joining the union. And in Alabama, Amazon warehouse workers held a do-over union vote after U.S. labor officials found the company unfairly influenced their original election in 2021. The new election results remain too close to call .

Before that, in 2014, a small group of maintenance and repair techs at a Delaware warehouse voted against unionizing. In 2000, a union drive tried to organize 400 Amazon call-center workers in Seattle, but the company shuttered the center amid a reorganization during dot-com bust.

Editor’s note: Amazon is among NPR’s recent financial supporters.

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