Amazon warehouse workers near Albany vote against unionizing

Shyanne Reid

Employees at a fulfillment center for Inc. in upstate New York rejected unionization earlier this week.

The ALB1 fulfillment center — which is located in Schodack, near Albany — held a union vote on Oct. 18. If successful, the workers would have joined the Amazon Labor Union.

A total of 206 workers voted in favor of joining the union while 406 workers opposed the move, according to results released by the National Labor Relations Board. Over 900 employees were eligible to participate in the vote.

Unionization efforts started at the warehouse back in February, when Heather Goodall began working at the center. Safety issues, wages and the treatment of workers were some of her concerns that led her to mobilize workers in May.

“Amazon’s obsession was placed on consumers to the point where it became negligent to employees,” Goodall told Recode in September.

She told the Albany Proper that after an incident at work left her with health concerns, her attempt to get transferred to a less demanding position was ignored by her superiors.

“I almost died in that warehouse,” Goodall said.

ALB1 submitted its petition to the NLRB to hold a union vote in August. The board approved the petition in September. Goodall said her co-workers were hoping for improvements in a very important area.

“The top thing we are fighting for is quality of life,” Goodall told Recode. “We are missing the mark on quality of life.”

ALB1, which is known as an “XL” warehouse because it handles orders weighing over 50 pounds, employs roughly 1,000 workers. It became the second Amazon facility in New York to vote against representation by the ALU. Employees at the JFK8 Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island voted to unionize on April 1.

ALU was created by Christian Smalls, a former Amazon employee who was fired in March 2020 after staging a walkout in protest of the lack of worker protection during the pandemic. Smalls said he is not discouraged by the loss at ALB1.

“We are filled with resolve to continue and expand our campaign for fair treatment for all Amazon workers,” Smalls said in a statement, according to NPR. “When workers are empowered to take on a greedy uncaring company with a poor safety track record and a high churn rate of workers, it isn’t a loss, it’s an ongoing battle.”

Eyes were on the vote in Albany, especially after the ALU lost its second attempt to unionize another facility in Staten Island. LDJ5 voted against joining the union in May. Thomas Kochan — a labor researcher and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management — told CNN that the loss in Albany could intimidate future union votes.

“Some will get discouraged because they see how futile and how difficult it is,” Kochan said. “Others are going to get incensed by this.”

Amazon said in the past that it prefers to work directly with its employees to better the company rather than going through a union. To discourage employees from unionizing, it held numerous mandatory anti-union meetings and posted signs within warehouses advising workers to vote no.

The company however maintains that it respects its employees’ right to unionize.

“We’ve always said that we want our employees to have their voices heard, and we hope and expect this process allows for that,” Amazon spokesperson Paul Flannigan told The Washington Post.