Voting begins in a union election outside of Albany on Wednesday morning, where roughly 400 workers at an Amazon fulfillment center will decide whether they want to join the Amazon Labor Union — the upstart group that successfully unionized a warehouse on Staten Island in March.
Voting will take place on four days, ending next Monday. Workers at the National Labor Relations Board offices in Albany will tally ballots the day after, Oct. 18, according to Kayla Blado, a spokesperson for the board.
At a rally outside the facility ahead of the vote this week, Amazon Labor Union organizer Sarah Chaudhry described struggling to make ends meet and feeling alone at work, until she started hearing the stories of her coworkers.
“‘I got my second job after this; I won't get to sleep tonight. I don’t feel well but I don’t have any [unpaid time off] left. I have a chronic illness and they keep refusing my accommodation request,’” she said, listing off some of the things her colleagues told her during the lead up to the union drive. “‘My baby is sick and I can’t afford the medical costs while I’m already paying $500 a month for health insurance. I reported my sexual harassment, I reported it and they told me sticks and stones.’”
“We’re struggling to survive and we are all suffering,” Chaudhry added.
Paul Flaningan, a spokesperson for Amazon, which has resisted union efforts at its warehouses for years, said the company was “skeptical” the vote would gain traction among its workers.
“We've always said that we want our employees to have their voices heard,” he said. “We hope and expect this process allows for that.”
The Albany election marks the third vote held at an Amazon warehouse where workers are aiming to join the newly formed Amazon Labor Union, a group started by current and former workers at Staten Island’s JFK8 warehouse. Their first election at that warehouse was successful, while a second drive, at a warehouse across the street, failed. This week, workers at a warehouse in Moreno Valley California, filed for an election and are also seeking to join the ALU.
The company spent at least $4.9 million last year on consultants to help the company dissuade union organizing that was afoot on Staten Island as well as in Alabama, where a union drive was ultimately unsuccessful. More recent company filings weren’t available immediately.
Attorneys for the Amazon Labor Union alleged the company’s conduct often breached federal labor laws, and filed dozens of charges alleging as much.
Records from the National Labor Relations Board showed attorneys for the Amazon Labor Union have alleged similar anti-union activity in Albany. They’ve filed two dozen unfair labor charges since August for retaliating against union organizers, disciplining them, surveilling them and using coercive language.
Despite the successful drive in March on Staten Island, Amazon is still refusing to begin bargaining with the Amazon Labor Union, and has promised to appeal an administrative judge’s decision, siding with the union and upholding the results of that election.
But at the rally Tuesday, Chaudhry said the union’s efforts were too important to relent.
“We, the warehouse workers who generate Amazon Incorporated’s fields of wealth, are waging a peaceful class war for every meal skipped, every sprain, every medical bill unpaid — because we deserve better than the bare minimum or less,” she said. “We deserve our lives back.”