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Amazon workers in upstate New York file for union elections


FILE – A logo for Amazon is seen on a screen at the Nasdaq MarketSite, July 27, 2018. Amazon workers in upstate New York filed a petition for a union election on Tuesday, August 16, 2022 , launching a major labor struggle against the company. A National Labor Relations Board spokesperson said the petition was filed for a warehouse in the town of Schodack, near Albany. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)


Backed by the rank-and-file union group that won the first-ever labor victory at an Amazon warehouse in the United States, workers at another warehouse filed a petition on Tuesday for an election in upstate New York hoping for a similar result.

A National Labor Relations Board spokesperson said the petition was filed for the warehouse known as ALB1, located in the town of Schodack, about 10 miles southeast of Albany.

To qualify for a union election, the NLRB requires the signatures of 30% of eligible voters at a specific establishment. Whether or not workers have met that threshold will likely be determined in the coming weeks.

Paul Flaningan, a spokesman for Amazon, said the company has about 1,000 warehouse workers at the Schodack site. But in the filing, the Amazon Labor Union, the fledgling union supporting the workers, said there would be around 400 employees in the bargaining unit.

Heather Goodall, a warehouse worker and former insurance agent who is leading the organizing effort, said in an interview earlier this month that workers had enough support to file a union petition, but were choosing to delay in order to collect even more signatures. On Tuesday, she said lawyers for the group were not prepared to release information about the number of signatures collected to the public.

The NLRB must now verify whether the workers who signed the petition are qualified to run for office. If the agency approves, it will set dates and times for an election between the company and the Amazon Labor Union, which won a labor victory in Staten Island, New York in April.

The union, made up of former and current warehouse workers, began supporting organizing efforts in upstate New York after being approached by Goodall, who joined Amazon in February to set the company working conditions. She quickly started talking to her fellow union members and launched the union campaign in May with a group of other workers.

Shortly after, Goodall said he met the Teamsters and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, or RWDSU, which also faced Amazon in a union election at a Bessemer, Alabama facility, the results of which are still in. contested.

Eventually, she said organizers decided to pursue a more local approach and align themselves with the ALU, based on the belief that the group understood the business better than other established unions.

“It seemed logical that we would work directly with them and continue to build the Amazon Labor Union nationwide,” Goodall said.

A labor victory at Schodack would essentially broaden ALU’s support within Amazon and turn it into a point of contact for labor issues beyond Staten Island. It could also rekindle the enthusiasm that began to crumble after the group lost in May at a second warehouse on Staten Island and reports that it ceased organizing at two other nearby facilities.

At the same time, the ALU is defending its only victory against Amazon, which has filed more than two dozen objections to this election. Lawyers for both sides tried to discredit each other’s claims during a contentious week-long hearing at the NLRB that ended in mid-July. A decision on this case is expected in the coming weeks.

Organizers say Amazon has already started holding meetings with Schodack workers to discourage them from unionizing. In a statement, Flaningan, the spokesperson for Amazon, said employees could choose what they wanted to do.

“As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” Flaningan said. “Our goal remains to work directly with our team to continue to make Amazon a great place to work.”

Meanwhile, dozens of TikTok creators are pledging to cease business with Amazon until it meets union demands, such as a $30-an-hour minimum wage and longer breaks. On Tuesday, nonprofit Gen-Z for Change unveiled a campaign backed by about 70 content creators who say they will refuse to monetize their platforms for Amazon unless “tangible changes” are made to improve labor conditions.

“Amazon’s widespread mistreatment of its workers and blatant use of union busting tactics will no longer be tolerated by the TikTok community or TikTok creators,” reads the letter the group shared on Twitter.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the campaign.

Other campaigns are underway at company warehouses in states like Kentucky and North Carolina as workers try to collect enough signatures to demand their own elections. Among other things, workers in upstate New York are demanding better training in the company warehouse and higher wages.

“We have employees who can’t even get to work because they can’t afford gas,” Goodall said. “They can’t afford to fix their car, they can’t afford to support their families.”

The petition comes amid greater scrutiny of Amazon and its warehouse operations across the country. On Monday, dozens of workers at a corporate airline hub in San Bernardino, Calif., walked off the job to protest low pay and heat safety.

Federal officials have also been more involved. Last month, OSHA inspected Amazon facilities in a handful of states after receiving referrals for health and safety violations. The Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is also investigating security risks at Amazon’s warehouses and what a spokesperson for the office called “fraudulent conduct designed to conceal injuries from OSHA and others”.