Workers at ALB1, Amazon’s warehouse near Albany, New York, voted not to join the Amazon Labor Union over this past weekend. The votes were counted by an NLRB official on Tuesday morning. Of the warehouse's approximately 949 eligible workers, 643 cast votes, of which 31 were challenged. Valid ballots showed 206 voting in favor of joining the union and 406 voting against. In addition, four ballots were marked as void due to being blank or containing identifying information.
“It was a sham election where workers were subjected to intimidation and retaliation on a daily basis and even the workers who volunteered to be election observers were faced with threats of termination,” Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls said in a statement after the vote tally. “The suits at Amazon corporate know that they can’t win without putting their thumb on the scale.”
Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a 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. We will continue to work directly with our teammates in Albany, as we do everywhere, to keep making Amazon better every day."
If the election had been successful, ALB1 would have been the second Amazon facility ever to unionize, the first being JFK8 in Staten Island earlier this year.
Before the vote tallying began, Smalls tweeted, “Proud of the brave workers of ALB1 regardless of todays results taking on a Trillion dollar company can never be a loss for workers. We will continue to empower all workers to give them the right to unionize. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”
The ALB1 campaign faced various challenges leading up to the election. Motherboard reported on a team of union-busting consultants, termed “employee relations” by Amazon, hired to persuade workers not to join the union. Workers said the consultants would interrupt their work by taking them for one-on-one discussions and holding captive audience meetings promoting anti-union material.
“Many people are feeling harassed,” said Heather Goodall, the lead campaigning manager for the ALU, in a phone call to Motherboard at the time. “It’s to the point it’s creating a hostile work environment. Why is this still happening if workers have expressed they’re frustrated? They don’t want to be approached at work.”
Goodall said that she, among other pro-union workers, had been unfairly investigated by the company’s Human Resources department, and alleged that it was a form of retaliation.
Workers were also being threatened by management, the ALU told Motherboard, for serving as union election observers during the eight polling sessions held at ALB1 over the past week. Retu Singla, general counsel for the ALU, wrote in emails to attorneys at the National Labor Relations Board that Amazon’s management had unfairly threatened to deduct employee Unpaid Time Off (UPT) for participating. Amazon is historically very strict with UPT—once a worker’s unpaid time runs out, they’re all but guaranteed to be fired.
“They are not against getting out the vote,” Singla said in an interview last week, referring to Amazon’s management. “They don't go about this by treating workers poorly for voting. They go about this by treating workers poorly for actively engaging in support for the union.”
When contacted by Motherboard at the time, an Amazon spokesperson claimed that the issue was a miscommunication and no workers acting as election observers would be deducted UPT.
Seth Goldstein, a lawyer for the ALU, said multiple times during the weeks leading up to the election that Amazon needed to be held accountable for its treatment of workers.
“I find it disgusting that they would put so much effort into destroying people’s lives and violating their labor rights—their human rights,” he said in an interview in late September. “Amazon is a flagrant violation of human rights, and they should be held accountable.”
Other warehouses around the country have taken interest in joining the ALU, citing unsafe working conditions and not being paid a living wage. Amazon’s ONT8, a warehouse near San Bernardino, California, filed for union election just last week, and the NLRB has yet to approve their petition. Workers at KSBD, the company’s San Bernardino air hub, also organized a strike last Friday.
In his statement, Smalls vowed to keep fighting for unionization. “Today, everyone involved with ALU is filled with mixed emotions. 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. This won’t be the end of ALU at ALB1.”
This article was updated with statements from ALU and Amazon after the votes were counted.
Aaron Gordon contributed reporting.