Image: Heather Goodall
Amazon anti-union consultants are trying to interfere with the Amazon Labor Union’s organizing activities at ALB1, the company’s Albany warehouse that recently filed for a union election. Images sent to Motherboard show the consultants wearing brightly-colored warehouse vests, which is their attempt to blend in when they go down to the warehouse floor and talk to workers, according to Seth Goldstein, a lawyer for the Amazon Labor Union.
“It’s to blend in with workers,” Goldstein said. “To pretend they’re one of them.”
Images sent to Motherboard show a whiteboard in a conference room used by the consultants. On the whiteboard is what appears to be a list of recommended restaurant options in Albany for the consultants who fly into town to prevent unionization before traveling to a different warehouse in another part of the country to do the same. Recommendations on the list include casual dining restaurants like Ted’s Fish Fry, but also more expensive options like Delmonico’s (“for steak,” according to the whiteboard) or 677 Prime, which according to its website is “upstate New York’s premiere steakhouse” and offers a $179 A5 Japanese Wagyu filet, $40 per ounce "Snow Aged" Japanese Wagyu, and caviar for $165 on its menu. “This is what they’re concerned about. Getting the best steak in Albany,” Goldstein said. “I think that’s pretty ridiculous. They’re trying to look like the workers, but they’re not like the workers. They make $3,200 a day. They're worried about steak and all the good places to eat. And our members can't afford it. They don't have a living wage.” According to an LM-20 filing with the U.S. Department of Labor, consultants at the firm hired by Amazon—RoadWarrior Productions, LLC—are paid “$3,200 per day per consultant plus expenses.”
Amazon did not provide comment in time for publication.Also on the whiteboard are a visible a series of hashtags under a cartoon bee drawing: #BeeKind, #PositiveVibes, #Beethankful, and #Beyhive. “I’ve never seen that before,” Goldstein said. “But that’s what they have to do to remind the union-busters to behave themselves. These are things that you’re reminded of when you’re in kindergarten.”
Heather Goodall, the organizing campaign manager for the ALU, expanded more on #BeeKind in an interview with Motherboard. “They’re overly nice to workers in an attempt to pose as somebody who’s genuinely concerned about their issues,” she said. “I asked last week, ‘What are you talking to workers about?’ and they responded that it was just to see how they’re doing. We never get a straight answer on how they’re improving working conditions.”
Goldstein explained in a phone call with Motherboard that the consultants would go onto the floor of the warehouse to talk to workers there. “They have one-on-one meetings, where they go around on the floor, and take [the workers] off-task,” he said. “And sometimes people lose productivity.”
Sign up for Motherboard’s daily newsletter for a regular dose of our original reporting, plus behind-the-scenes content about our biggest stories.
A video sent to Motherboard by Goldstein shows organizing campaign manager Heather Goodall interviewing a worker at the warehouse in Albany. Goodall asks, “So, talk about what’s going on in the warehouse.” “About the ‘employee relations’ people?” the worker responds, making air quotes with their hands. “They’re literally harassing and following people around while they’re trying to do their job, and stopping them from doing their job. Meanwhile, work’s getting backed up, and other people are getting upset because they have to pick up the slack.” The worker explains that one consultant in particular was going up to workers around the warehouse sharing and reading from a piece of paper. “Many people are feeling harassed,” Goodall said in a phone call. “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.”Goldstein said that the consultants also host “captive audience meetings,” which refers to a mandatory meeting held by Amazon during working hours. During such a meeting, the consultants will usually show anti-union videos or share anti-union material. Goodall noted that beyond these meetings—one of which she was kicked out of for asking questions—the consultants put up signs about them in break rooms, in bathrooms, and even on TVs throughout the warehouse. “It’s absolute overkill,” she said. The union election is scheduled to begin on Oct. 12. The whiteboard also notes that no worker hired after Sept. 3 of this year would be able to vote in the election.
ALB1 would be the fourth Amazon warehouse to file for union election, after ALU president Chris Smalls and Derrick Palmer managed to successfully run a worker-led organization effort at their warehouse in Staten Island earlier this year. Smalls even made an appearance at the Albany warehouse, according to a video sent to Motherboard by Goldstein, but was not allowed into the building and was asked to leave.“I find it disgusting that they would put so much effort into destroying people’s lives and violating their labor rights—their human rights,” Goldstein said. “Amazon is a flagrant violation of human rights, and they should be held accountable.”