Amazon workers vote against forming union in upstate New York



CNN

Amazon workers in upstate New York have voted against forming a union, dealing another blow to a grassroots working group trying to organize several of the tech giant’s US warehouses.

A total of 406 workers at the Amazon plant near Albany voted against unionization and 206 voted in favour, according to preliminary tally Tuesday by the National Labor Relations Board. There were some disputed and invalid ballots, but no number large enough to affect the final results.

Workers at the facility, dubbed ALB1, tried to organize at the Amazon Labor Union, the same grassroots labor group that successfully formed the first-ever union at a US Amazon facility in Staten Island, New York, earlier this year. The vote in Albany was ALU’s third attempt to unionize an Amazon warehouse after failing to win a union victory at a smaller Amazon facility also located in Staten Island. It also comes as Amazon has yet to formally recognize the Staten Island union or come to the negotiating table.

After the vote count concluded on Tuesday, ALU President Chris Smalls said his working group was “filled with mixed feelings” about the results and promised “this will not be the end of ALU at ALB1.”

Smalls also accused Amazon of retaliating against union organizers at ALB1, which Amazon had previously denied, and called the vote a “sham election.”

Amazon, meanwhile, welcomed the results of the election in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are pleased that our team in Albany made their voices heard and that they chose to maintain the direct relationship with Amazon as we believe this is the best arrangement for our employees and customers,” Kelly Nantel , a spokesman for Amazon said in a statement. “As we do everywhere, we will work directly with our teammates in Albany to make Amazon better every day.”

Amazon’s organizing efforts came amid a broader resurgence of the US labor movement during the pandemic, with some early union victories at companies like Apple and Starbucks. Smalls, in particular, has emerged as the face of this labor movement since the Staten Island victory, appearing at the White House and posing with celebrities at the Time 100 summit.

Smalls previously told CNN Business that since its original win, ALU has seen an explosion of interest from Amazon workers at other facilities. In addition to the ALB1 facility, an Amazon fulfillment center in Moreno Valley, California recently petitioned the ALU for a union election.

But ahead of last week’s vote in Albany, Smalls appeared to downplay the impact of the result, suggesting organizing activity itself is a win. “The expansion of ALU is historic in itself,” he previously told CNN. “I don’t think there’s anything at stake.”

Smalls echoed that sentiment in a tweet Tuesday before the vote count began. “Proud of the brave workers at ALB1, regardless of today’s results,” he tweeted, adding, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”

Amazon workers and organizers at the Albany plant say they were inspired to form a union after seeing the success of ALU in Staten Island. Some workers in Albany said they were also motivated to organize after witnessing injuries to colleagues at work. A report by the National Employment Law Project found that the ALB1 facility had the highest rate of “serious injuries” of any Amazon facility in the state.

An Amazon spokesman previously told CNN Business that Amazon has increased hiring to meet Covid-19 demand, “and like other companies in the industry, we have seen an increase in reportable injuries during this period of 2020-2021 as we have so many new ones Trained employees.” The spokesman added that the company has invested billions of dollars in new operational safety measures.

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