Amazon Warehouse Workers Reject Labor Union in NY State

It's the second vote the Amazon Labor Union has lost since its upset victory at a Staten Island warehouse in April.

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Laura Hautala
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Warehouse workers rejected the union by a wide margin in a vote counted Tuesday.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Workers at an Amazon warehouse near Albany, New York, have voted against union representation, according to a tally released Tuesday.

The vote over whether to join the Amazon Labor Union took place on the warehouse premises over the previous week. It was the third election asking workers whether they wanted to be represented by the fledgling labor group.

The unofficial tally was 406 votes against and 206 votes for the union. The results must be certified by the National Labor Relations Board, and both Amazon and the union can bring challenges to the election.

The result further slows the momentum of the ALU, said labor attorney Andrew MacDonald, who represents employers at Fox Rothschild and isn't involved in the Amazon election. The union won the right to represent Amazon workers in Staten Island, a borough of New York City, in its first union election in April. A second Staten Island warehouse voted against the union in May.

The election comes as Amazon faces increasing regulatory scrutiny from multiple federal agencies. The NLRB, which administers federal labor law and conducts union elections, is reportedly investigating Amazon's larger pattern of labor practices. The Department of Labor is investigating workplace safety at multiple Amazon warehouses. And the Federal Trade Commission is probing the company's business practices for antitrust violations.

ALU President Chris Smalls expressed frustration over Amazon's actions leading up to the vote and said the company interfered with the process, according to a statement shared on Twitter. Workers experienced intimidation and harassment, he said, and those who volunteered as election observers were threatened with the loss of their jobs. 

"The suits at Amazon corporate know that they can't win without putting their thumb on the scale," Smalls said.

Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Smalls' allegations. 

"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 as we think that this is the best arrangement for both our employees and customers," Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement. "We will continue to work directly with our teammates in Albany, as we do everywhere, to keep making Amazon better every day."

The NLRB has found merit in some of ALU's past complaints about Amazon's mandatory meetings arguing against unions. A prosecutor with the federal agency has also alleged the company engaged in harassment and intimidation by interrogating and surveilling workers in Staten Island.

If ALU files objections arguing Amazon interfered with the election, the board could rule in its favor and order a new election. That's what happened in a separate union election at a Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon warehouse where workers initially voted against representation from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. In the second election, the vote was much closer but workers still rejected the union (however, there are enough challenged ballots to change the result).

"I think most unions would walk away," labor attorney MacDonald said of ALU's 2-1 loss in upstate New York. 

However, he said, the vote in Bessemer shows that's not always what happens.