Amazon Labor Union Alleges ‘Coercive, Threatening and Retaliatory Conduct’ Resulted in Failed Union Vote

The union filed its objections on Tuesday to the failed election in Amazon's Albany warehouse last week.
an amazon logo on a warehouse
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The Amazon Labor Union filed a series of 23 objections to the failed union election at a warehouse in Albany, New York last week, alleging that Amazon’s conduct toward the warehouse employees had intimidated them and prevented them from freely voting for or against joining the union. 


“The following objections constitute conduct which prevented a free and uncoerced exercise of choice by the employees,” the filing reads. “The employer’s coercive, threatening and retaliatory conduct destroyed any possibility for the Region to conduct a free and fair election while also creating a sustained atmosphere before and during the critical period where voters’ 'uninhibited desires' were completely chilled. Accordingly, these objections constitute grounds to set the election aside.” 

The ALU alleges that before and during the critical period of campaigning over the past summer, management at the warehouse, called ALB1, changed policies to prevent workers from congregating in break rooms to interfere with their “ability to inform workers as to their rights to form and join unions,” the filing reads. 

The final vote count at ALB1 was 206 for joining the union, and 406 against, with four ballots marked void. Out of the 949 eligible employees, 643 voted, and 31 ballots were challenged. Last year, Amazon workers at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama challenged the results of their union election; the National Labor Relations Board ordered a second election. Amazon employees lost that election, too, but the result was much tighter.

The objection in Albany also alleges that the break room policy had been “discriminatorily applied” against pro-union workers. However, it had not been enforced for the “union buster consultants” hired by the company, who had full access to all parts of the building at any time, the filing reads. Motherboard has previously reported on these third-party consultants. Workers said that they would hold “captive audience meetings” where they shared anti-union content, and would interrupt workers on the warehouse floor to take them for one-on-one meetings. 


“If consulting can get access to the building, why can’t union organizers have that same right? ” said Seth Goldstein, a lawyer for the ALU. “We underwent surveillance and arrest threats when we tried to campaign in the parking lot. We don’t want to pull people off the job like Amazon does—we just want the right to be in the break rooms.” 

The filing alleges that Amazon’s consultants would make “negative, sometimes racist, statements about the ALU and its President to the workers.” The union president, Chris Smalls, made history earlier this year for successfully leading the company’s JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island to unionize. When Smalls, a Black man, made an appearance at ALB1 to help the campaigning effort, he was denied entry and threatened with arrest, video sent to Motherboard at the time showed. 

The consultants would also go around the warehouse floor passing out “Vote No Shirts” and taking note of who would and would not accept the shirts, the filing alleges. It continues to say that Amazon allowed “Vote No” stickers in work areas during the critical period and during the polling process, but did not allow any pro-union material in work or non-work areas. 

The ALU filing lists numerous ways that Amazon allegedly threatened or intimidated its employees and intentionally misinformed them about their right to unionize. One objection references a fire that broke out in an ALB1 cardboard compactor the week before the union election. “Shortly after the fire the Company questioned a worker in support of Petitioner [the ALU] if Petitioner had started the fire, whether Petitioner had paid someone to start the fire and whether this worker had started the fire,” the objection reads. “The Employer’s conduct destroyed any possibility that the Region was able to conduct a free and fair election.”


The last objection in the list claims that Amazon had inflated its eligible voter list to make it impossible for the ALU to determine if it truly had a majority. It reads that Amazon’s compiled voter list included employees whose home addresses were in states other than New York—Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Utah and Oklahoma. It alleges that Amazon included “seasonal and temporary employees in order to “pack the unit”.” 

“This type of packing of the unit and breaching the Stipulated Election Agreement prevents any conclusion that the tally reflects the desires of eligible voters in this election,” the filing reads.

“Now what we need is date of hire and last date worked,” said Retu Singla, general counsel for the ALU. “I think there’s been some bad faith on Amazon’s part in providing that information.”

An Amazon spokesperson denied the allegations when reached for comment. “These objections and allegations are without merit and we are confident that through this process the majority of our employees’ voices will continue to be heard,” they wrote in an email to Motherboard.

Organizers say they faced multiple challenges by the company, including threats and misinformation, during the organizing process and even during polling sessions, where employees were threatened that if they served as election observers, their Unpaid time Off would be deducted.

“We were restricted in how we could campaign,” Goldstein said. “Every turn they made it impossible to do that.” 

Update: This article was updated with comment from Amazon.