The Amazon Labor Union has vowed to continue its fight to organize a company warehouse outside Albany after losing a union election today by a nearly two-to-one margin. The National Labor Relations Board announced the final tally of 406-206 after workers voted from Oct. 12-17 in an election the ALU says was marred by rampant union-busting.
“The union-busting is akin to what occurs in Russian elections as far as the violations go,” ALU attorney Seth Goldstein told The Indypendent.
Instead of seeking a new election, the union is requesting that the NLRB issue a direct bargaining order because the company has made a fair election impossible.
Amazon flew in union-avoidance consultants in advance of the election who were paid $3,200 per day. They directly engaged with workers on the shop floor to share their anti-union views. They also led meetings that were little more than anti-union propaganda sessions. It was not made clear to workers that these meetings weren’t obligatory — something the NLRB condemned in April. Workers reported to the ALU that during these meetings they were told they could “lose everything.”
According to the worker-organizers at the ALB1 warehouse, Amazon constantly surveilled them, denied them access to break rooms before or after work (which is illegal), called the police on them for trying to organize workers in the parking lot and had HR investigate pro-union workers, threatened ALU election observers and promised its employees a raise ahead of the election (which is also illegal).
The worker-led ALU won a historic election victory on April 1 at the massive JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island with roughly 8,000 workers. It lost a second election on May 2 at LDJ5 in the same Staten Island warehouse complex following an intense union-busting drive by the company that was documented by The Indypendent. And now today’s defeat in Albany.
“What happened today just proves how dysfunctional the national labor elections process is,” Golstein said.
ALB 1 worker-organizer Heather Goodall had an optimistic take on the election result, noting that just by trying to organize a union the workers won a pay raise and an improved policy on promotions and forced their bosses to improve dangerous working conditions. Goodall, who has led the union push at ALB1, was able to help a worker get reinstated on Sept. 30 after he was fired for taking two hours of unpaid time off that he wasn’t allotted.
“We’ve moved the needle on so many things in that warehouse,” she told The Indy.
The NLRB was founded in 1938 to facilitate workers being able to democratically choose whether or not to form unions. With the penalties for harassing and intimidating workers so small and so belatedly applied, companies have little reason to not routinely violate labor laws and try to grind down groups like the ALU.
The ALU’s momentum has been further stymied by Amazon’s refusal to negotiate a first contract with workers at JFK8. It remains to be seen whether the union’s strategy of organizing union recognition elections one warehouse at a time will need to be supplemented by efforts to organize wildcat strikes across Amazon’s nationwide network of warehouses that could force the company to come to the bargaining table in earnest.
On Oct. 11, Amazon workers at the ONT8 warehouse in Moreno Valley, California outside of Los Angeles filed a union election petition with the NLRB. The workers seek to be represented by the ALU. Another tough battle begins.
The Indypendent is a New York City-based newspaper and website. Our independent, grassroots journalism is made possible by readers like you. Please consider making a recurring or one-time donation today or subscribe to our monthly print edition and get every copy sent straight to your home.