Image Credit: Heather Goodall
Amazon workers at ALB1, the company’s fulfillment center near Albany—which is set to hold a union election this coming Wednesday—reported that a fire broke out in the warehouse last night.
The fire started late in the evening and lasted around 45 minutes, according to Seth Goldstein, a lawyer for the Amazon Labor Union which ALB1 plans to unionize with. The local fire department was contacted at around 10:54 p.m. Motherboard could not reach the fire department for comment. Goldstein said that night shift workers had been sent home, and that ALB1 would be closed for the following day.
A spokesperson for Amazon confirmed the ALB1 fire. “Late Wednesday evening at our ALB1 facility in Schodack, NY, just outside Albany, there was a small fire contained to a compactor that's located just outside the doors of a loading dock,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to Motherboard. “The site was evacuated and the local fire department responded to the scene. After a preliminary investigation, fire department officials declared the building safe for use.”“Out of an abundance of caution, we sent night shift employees home with pay and canceled Thursday's day shift,” the spokesperson continued. “These employees will also be paid. We are grateful for the swift actions of first responders and the employees who handled the situation appropriately."This is the third Amazon facility to report a fire over this past week. On Monday night, there was a similar fire in the Staten Island warehouse. There, a fire broke out in a cardboard compactor. Day shift workers were sent home with pay, but night shift workers were not. They were told to wait in the break room until the New York Fire Department had cleared the warehouse to be safe. However, workers said they could still smell the fumes from the fire, and felt it would be unsafe to go back to work—so they held the first sit-in wildcat strike in Amazon history. Amazon then, according to Goldstein, suspended 80 of them.
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Also on Monday night, workers in a fulfillment center in Madison, Alabama, reported their facility’s second fire in two weeks. One employee told WAFF, “Our plant caught on fire again. This time it was in the same area, but it was a couple aisles over. You could still smell smoke in there. Half the warehouse was off limits.” The facility had previously been closed due to a fire reported in late September. WAFF wrote that the employees were feeling a sense of “fear and distrust.” The Amazon spokesperson would not comment on why so many fires have broken out at warehouses this week, but said they were “looking into” the compactors. “Sadly, I’m not surprised, because of all the worker safety violations,” Goldstein said. “The company’s focusing more on profits and union-busting than safety of the facility and its workers.”
“Had [management] been listening, we may not have been in this situation,” Goldstein said. He continued that before the workers return, there needs to be a full investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the fire department, and that the results of that investigation should be shared with workers “in the spirit of transparency.”