Amazon workers union loses election at warehouse near Albany

Workers at an Amazon facility near Albany, New York, voted decisively against being represented by the new Amazon Workers Union, undermining efforts to expand unionization at the e-commerce giant.

Warehouse employees cast 206 votes for the union and 406 against, according to a tally released Tuesday by the National Labor Relations Board. Almost 950 workers had the right to vote.

The vote was from the Amazon Workers Union second failed election From a surprise victory in April, when workers at an Amazon facility on Staten Island voted to form the company’s first warehouse employee union in the United States.

“We’re glad our team in Albany was able to make their voices heard and have chosen to maintain the direct relationship with Amazon,” Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement.

In recent months, the Amazon Labor Union has debated whether to focus on winning a contract at the Staten Island facility, known as JFK8, or expand its reach to other warehouses across the country through additional elections.

Christian Smalls, the union’s president, “is very much in favor of trying to create opportunities for as many workers as possible to vote,” said Cassio Mendoza, a JFK8 worker and union communications director. At the same time, the union has felt pressure to demonstrate progress to workers on Staten Island and has recently intensified its internal organization there after months of minimal public activity.

Tuesday’s finding from the ALB1 warehouse in Castleton-on-Hudson, New York, about 10 miles south of Albany, did not appear to dissuade the union from moving beyond JFK8.

“We are determined to continue and expand our campaign for fair treatment for all Amazon workers,” Smalls said in a statement. “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

About 80 percent of the union’s budget of more than half a million dollars has been concentrated on Staten Island, union officials said. The rest has been set aside for expansion efforts, including at ALB1 and a facility in Southern California that petitioned for an election last week.

Smalls said the election was “not free or fair.” Even before the ballots were counted on Tuesday, the union raised concerns that Amazon was improperly interfering with the vote, which could set the stage for a legal challenge to the results.

Labor board staff members have been investigating 27 unfair labor practice charges the union filed against Amazon before voting began, the agency said last week. Since then, the union has raised additional concerns.

One included an allegation that a worker had been suspended for complaining that one of Amazon’s anti-union consultants followed and harassed him during the voting period, according to Retu Singla, a lawyer representing the union.

“They try to whip votes during the election,” Mendoza said, adding that the consultant appeared to be dressed in workman clothes and an Amazon vest.

Another employee, who was not directly involved in the union campaign and requested anonymity, said on the first day of the vote that he had seen what appeared to be “fake employees” wearing Amazon vests, but that they did not know the basics of the jobs and They sowed doubts. on the union’s ability to negotiate a contract.

Matthew Bodie, a former NLRB attorney who now works at the University of Minnesota Law School, said that while personal conversations with workers during the voting period are allowed, trying to mislead employees by misrepresenting the identity of company agents could amount to election interference.

Amazon declined to comment on the allegations.

The ALB1 warehouse handles large items such as outdoor equipment and televisions. A recent report from a worker advocacy group found that the facility had the highest serious injury rate of any New York Amazon warehouse for which the group was able to obtain government data.

Amazon has emphasized its starting minimum wage and benefits, saying it has improved its safety record more than other retailers in recent years. In his message to workers, he has questioned the experience of the Amazon Workers Union and said that workers could be worse off if they voted for a union.

In interviews outside the warehouse in September, some Amazon workers said they were supporting the union because the pay was too low, especially in light of how physically taxing the job could be. The company recently increased his starting base wage at the warehouse to $17 an hour, from $15.70.

“I think we need a union, we need more wages,” said Masud Abdullah, a warehouse employee. He said that he had earned about $22 an hour at an industrial bakery, but he left that job because the hours didn’t fit his responsibilities as a father.

He and other workers also said they felt Amazon’s disciplinary policies were sometimes arbitrary. “It’s like you don’t have anyone to represent you,” Abdullah said. “They could put you in and take you out for anything.”

Other workers said they didn’t think a union was necessary because Amazon already provided solid wages and benefits, like health care and college tuition subsidies. Even some union supporters acknowledged that the company often treated workers well.

Some workers expressed skepticism that the Amazon Labor Union would keep its promises, such as better wages. “I feel like I haven’t seen any evidence,” said Jacob Carpenter, who works at the warehouse. He added that he planned to vote no.

Amazon has been fighting the union’s successful vote in Staten Island. After a lengthy hearing on the company’s objections to that choice, a labor board official recently approved union victory. A regional official is yet to weigh in, but Amazon told workers at JFK8 that he intended to appeal. The union has recently launched a petition to pressure Amazon to negotiate a contract.

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