Updated Oct. 18, 2022 at 12:50 p.m. EDT
Amazon warehouse workers at a facility outside Albany, New York have voted against unionization, dealing a blow to the independent Amazon Labor Union (ALU).
At Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) ALB-1 facility, workers over the past several days voted on whether to join the ALU, which secured a victory at another facility in Staten Island, JFK-8, a few months ago. Of 949 eligible voters at ALB-1, 406 voted against unionizing while 206 voted in favor, per the National Labor Relations Board’s preliminary tally Tuesday.
“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,” said Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel in an email statement to Modern Shipper. “We will continue to work directly with our teammates in Albany, as we do everywhere, to keep making Amazon better every day.”
Results of the election still need to be certified by the NLRB. Had it passed, the vote would have been just the second successful union vote in Amazon’s 28-year history, following the ALU’s earlier win.
Since then, two other warehouses have attempted to join the ALU, including one directly across the street from JFK-8 — both efforts failed. Amazon also continues to contest the victory at JFK-8, keeping workers away from the bargaining table.
The ALU had sought several changes to working conditions at ALB-1, including higher wages and better safety measures. Amazon recently bumped average hourly pay for warehouse associates by just over a dollar. That includes the Albany facility, which raised pay from $15.70 to $17 an hour, but the union was looking for more.
Injuries are another major concern for the group, with Amazon warehouse injury rates routinely topping the industry by a sizable margin — sometimes twice that of its rivals.
Since July, the ALU has filed 27 charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging union-busting tactics at ALB-1 on the part of Amazon. They include claims of illegal firings and practices that limit union organizing, such as limiting access to facilities during off-duty periods.
“A lot of these employees for the very first time are interacting with the unionizing process and are having their rights violated,” said Retu Singla, an attorney for the ALU. “Amazon is acting with impunity, and we have no ability to stop them.”
John Flaningan, an Amazon spokesman, denied the allegations and countered that the company is all for fair elections.
“We’ve always said that we want our employees to have their voices heard, and we hope and expect this process allows for that,” he told The Washington Post.
Watch: Amazon allowing sellers to use warehouses
However, as recently as last week, pro-union workers at ALB-1 said Amazon was punishing them by threatening election observers — union representatives present to make sure the vote runs smoothly — with deductions to unpaid time off.
Singla told Vice that several workers have backed out of the vote due to fear of retaliation.
“[One worker] continues to be uncomfortable and afraid of retaliation for acting as a Union Observer,” she wrote in an email to the NLRB, which was shared with Motherboard. “Clearly, the employer has acted to successfully chill [the worker’s] Section 7 rights to participate in this representation election which is [their] right under the [National Labor Relations Act].”
Organizers at the facility near Albany also said Amazon has been hiring “union avoidance” consultants to hold mandatory anti-union meetings. They claim that the warehouse’s lead organizer was repeatedly disciplined and that other organizers were fired in recent months for violating internal policies.
Elsewhere, the ALU filed for an election at a warehouse in Moreno Valley, California, last week, at the same time that workers in San Bernardino, California, and outside Chicago staged walkouts. Meanwhile, another vote at a facility in Bessemer, Alabama, is currently under review.