New York State

Amazon Labor Union loses election at Albany warehouse

Workers at the Castleton-on-Hudson Amazon facility voted 2-1 against unionizing with the upstart Amazon Labor Union.

For the second time this year, the Amazon Labor Union has lost an election, this time at an Amazon warehouse in Albany where the facility voted 2-1 against unionizing.

For the second time this year, the Amazon Labor Union has lost an election, this time at an Amazon warehouse in Albany where the facility voted 2-1 against unionizing. Howard Schnapp/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Success eluded the worker-led Amazon Labor Union for a second time this year, as employees at an Amazon warehouse near Albany voted by a 2-to-1 margin against unionizing this week. The National Labor Relations Board counted ballots in the election at the ALB1 warehouse in Castleton-on-Hudson on Tuesday, reporting that 406 people voted against unionizing and 206 voted in favor of unionizing – a decisive victory for a behemoth company that won’t be changed by a paltry 31 challenged ballots in the election. The election saw relatively high turnout, with about two-thirds of the roughly 900 eligible voters at the warehouse casting ballots.

The Albany warehouse election comes after the union’s historic victory in unionizing an 8,000-person warehouse on Staten Island earlier this year, followed by the loss of a union election at a nearby Staten Island Amazon facility a month later.

Amazon has long fought against its workers unionizing, and the independent Amazon Labor Union has always faced long odds to win union elections. At the Albany warehouse alone, the union has filed 27 unfair labor practices complaints against the company, which a regional office of the NLRB is currently investigating.

Despite Amazon’s lopsided victory on Tuesday, some of the ballots cast reflected enthusiastic support for unionizing. “It says, ‘hell yes,’ so I’m going to count that as a yes,” an official counting votes on Tuesday said when reading off one of the ballots. 

In March, workers at an 8,000-person Amazon warehouse on Staten Island known as JFK8 voted to join the Amazon Labor Union, making it the first Amazon warehouse in the country to vote to unionize. Employees at a neighboring facility known as LDJ5 soon after voted by a large margin against unionizing, however, prompting questions about whether the Amazon Labor Union’s influence may be limited beyond the warehouse where its leaders – including the union’s President Chris Smalls – have worked.

Efforts to unionize workers at the notoriously labor-wary e-commerce giant – whose collection of warehouses have exploded across New York City, the state and country – took their first major step in 2020, when workers at a large Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, filed to hold a union election. That vote, in which organizers sought to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, failed despite the union drive garnering national attention and support, including from President Joe Biden. Following charges of unfair labor practices from the RWDSU, however, the NLRB threw out the results of that vote, citing misconduct by Amazon during the election. The results of a second election, held this spring, were too close to call because of a large number of challenged ballots, and a final result has still not been declared as objections from both Amazon and the union are reviewed.

The decisive victory of the Amazon Labor Union at JFK8 is notable not only because it was the first union to win an election at an Amazon warehouse in the country, but because it is an independent union led by current and former Amazon employees on Staten Island. Smalls is a former employee at the JFK8 facility who was fired from the fulfillment center in 2020 after protesting warehouse conditions and pandemic safety practices there. Amazon has said that Smalls was fired for violating quarantine rules.

Earlier this year, Smalls told City & State that he wants to take the Amazon Labor Union far beyond Staten Island, unionizing the company’s workers at warehouses across the country. The results of the Albany election this week put the union off to a rough start, even with more union campaigns on the horizon. The Amazon Labor Union filed for a union election for a unit of 800 workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Moreno Valley, California, last week.

“Proud of the brave workers of ALB1 regardless of today’s results taking on a Trillion dollar company can never be a loss for workers,” Smalls said in a tweet ahead of the vote count on Tuesday morning. “We will continue to empower all workers to give them the right to unionize.”