Amazon Labor Union Loses Election at Warehouse Near Albany

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Workers at an Amazon facility near Albany, N.Y., have voted decisively against being represented by the upstart Amazon Labor Union, denting efforts to expand unionization across the giant e-commerce company.

Employees at the warehouse cast 206 votes to be represented by the union and 406 against, according to a count released on Tuesday by the National Labor Relations Board. Almost 950 workers were eligible to vote.

The vote was the Amazon Labor Union’s second unsuccessful election since a surprise victory in April, when workers at an Amazon facility on Staten Island voted to form the first union of the company’s warehouse employees in the United States.

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“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,” Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement.

In recent months, the Amazon Labor Union has debated whether to focus on winning a contract at the Staten Island facility, known as JFK8, or on expanding its reach to other warehouses around the country through additional elections.

Christian Smalls, the union’s president, “is very much in favor of trying to create opportunities for as many workers as possible to vote,” said Cassio Mendoza, a JFK8 worker and the union’s communications director. At the same time, the union has felt pressure to demonstrate progress to workers on Staten Island, and has recently stepped up its internal organizing there after months of minimal public activity.

The result on Tuesday from the ALB1 warehouse in Castleton-on-Hudson, N.Y., about 10 miles south of Albany, did not appear to dissuade the union from reaching beyond JFK8.

“We are filled with resolve to continue and expand our campaign for fair treatment for all Amazon workers,” Mr. Smalls said in a statement. “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

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About 80 percent of the union’s budget of more than half a million dollars has been focused on Staten Island, union officials have said. The rest has been set aside for expansion efforts, including at ALB1 and a facility in Southern California that submitted a petition for an election last week.

Mr. Smalls said the election “wasn’t free and fair.” Even before the ballots were tallied on Tuesday, the union expressed concern that Amazon had improperly interfered with the vote, potentially laying the groundwork for a legal objection to the result.

Labor board staff members have been investigating 27 charges of unfair labor practices that the union filed against Amazon before the voting began, the agency said last week. The union has since lodged additional concerns.

One included an accusation that a worker had been suspended for complaining that one of Amazon’s anti-union consultants followed him around and harassed him during the voting period, according to Retu Singla, a lawyer representing the union.

“They try to whip votes during the election,” said Mr. Mendoza, who added that the consultant appeared to be wearing worker clothes and an Amazon vest.

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Another employee, who was not directly involved with the union campaign and requested anonymity, said on the first day of voting that he had seen what appeared to be “fake employees” who were wearing Amazon vests but did not know the basics of the jobs and cast doubt on the union’s ability to negotiate a contract.

Matthew Bodie, a former N.L.R.B. lawyer now at the University of Minnesota Law School, said that while one-on-one conversations with workers during the voting period were allowed, seeking to deceive employees by misrepresenting the identity of company agents could amount to interference in the election.

Amazon declined to comment on the accusations.

The ALB1 warehouse handles oversize items like outdoor equipment and televisions. A recent report by a worker advocacy group found that the facility had the highest rate of serious injuries of any Amazon warehouse in New York for which the group was able to obtain government data.

Amazon has emphasized its minimum starting wage and benefits, and has said it has improved its safety record more than other retailers in recent years. In its messaging to workers, it has questioned the Amazon Labor Union’s experience and has said workers could be worse off if they voted for a union.

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In interviews outside the warehouse in September, some Amazon workers said they were supporting the union because pay was too low, especially in light of how physically taxing the work could be. The company recently raised its starting base wage at the warehouse to $17 an hour, from $15.70.

“I think we need a union — we need more pay,” said Masud Abdullah, an employee at the warehouse. He said he had made about $22 an hour at an industrial bakery, but left that job because the hours did not fit with his parenting responsibilities.

He and other workers also said they felt Amazon’s disciplinary policies were sometimes arbitrary. “It’s like you don’t have nobody representing you,” Mr. Abdullah said. “They could get you in and out for anything.”

Other workers said they didn’t believe a union was necessary because Amazon already provided solid pay and benefits, such as health care and college tuition subsidies. Even some union supporters acknowledged that the company often treated workers well.

Some workers expressed skepticism that the Amazon Labor Union would deliver on its promises, such as improving pay. “I feel like I haven’t seen any evidence,” said Jacob Carpenter, who works at the warehouse. He added that he planned to vote no.

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Amazon has been fighting the union’s successful vote on Staten Island. After a lengthy hearing on the company’s objections to that election, a labor board official recently endorsed the union’s victory. A regional official must still weigh in, but Amazon told workers at JFK8 that it intended to appeal. The union has recently pushed a petition to pressure Amazon to negotiate a contract.



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