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Amazon workers launch new union campaign in Albany

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Workers have launched a labor campaign at an Amazon warehouse near Albany, New York, in the latest attempt to organize the union-busting tech giant.

Warehouse union organizers are calling for a vote to join the independent Amazon Labor Union, which has struggled to break into new warehouses after winning an upset victory at a Staten Island warehouse in April.

Two workers involved in the campaign said they plan to join a union to negotiate higher wages, safer working conditions, longer breaks and a say in how the company tracks productivity.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment, but after the Staten Island labor victory, the company said it was “disappointed with the outcome of the election…because we believe having a relationship direct contact with the company is best for our employees”. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Inspired by the victory on Staten Island, workers have launched independent labor campaigns in North Carolina, Kentucky and now upstate New York. These warehouses face an uphill battle to replicate the victory on Staten Island as Amazon has doubled down on its tactics to dissuade workers from unionizing. Still, if either campaign succeeds, it would only be the second time workers have organized in the e-commerce giant’s 28-year history.

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Organizers working at the Albany warehouse, ALB1, parked outside the building, 20 miles southeast of Albany. In recent days they have been handing out pamphlets with QR codes that link to digital union authorization cards. Organizers say they have collected hundreds of cards.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) requires the signatures of more than 30 percent of eligible voters to qualify for a union election. Albany organizers say they’ve already passed that threshold but are waiting to run for office until they have 70-80 percent support. of those who have the right to vote.

Kimberly Lane, an Albany warehouse worker who serves on the union’s organizing committee, said low wages and safety concerns have pushed her to defend the union at ALB1.

“To me, Amazon is a poster boy for why unions were created,” said Lane, who wants a pay raise greater than the 50-cent-an-hour raise she’s received in nearly two years. in the business. She earns $15.70 an hour. “It’s not a living wage or in line with the cost of living. The big joke between my son and me is that I get about a quarter raise every six months. He’s like, ‘Mom, you won’t get a dollar raise for two years.’ ”

Albania The campaign is the latest in a surge of organizing that has emerged at big companies that have long remained union-free, including Starbucks, Apple, REI and Trader Joe’s. Starbucks baristas have unionized more than 190 stores, but campaigns involving other major companies have yet to have the same success.

Amazon has long opposed union campaigns among its warehouse workers, and the NLRB has repeatedly found it has violated labor laws protecting workers’ rights to organize by monitoring workers’ organizing efforts, firing union organizers, confiscating union literature, and threatening workers who support unions.

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The company installed anti-union messages everywhere the Albany warehouse, and organizers say the message has worried workers who say they support the union. Signage throughout the warehouse reads, “Remember: Completing a physical or digital union authorization card is legally binding. Do not sign a card. and “Protect your privacy. Do not sign an ALU card.

The Amazon Labor Union, with pro bono help from law students, filed unfair labor practice complaints with the NLRB, alleging the company violated labor laws at the Albany warehouse in in recent weeks by interfering with workers’ rights to organize unions and implementing a company-wide policy that prohibits employees from “accessing[ing] Amazon buildings or work areas during rest periods. The communication sent on June 30 specifies that the rule “will not be applied in a discriminatory manner against employees carrying out a protected activity”.

Before associating with the Amazon Labor Union, workers seeking to unionize at ALB1 contacted the Teamsters and the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, which also run Amazon-related organizing drives. Albany workers ultimately decided to work with the Amazon Labor Union because of its leaders’ understanding of the environment inside Amazon warehouses, two Albany warehouse workers said.

“We decided to go with the Amazon Labor Union because it was created for Amazon employees,” said Heather Goodall, who quietly began gauging union support at ALB1 in May. “They understand our concerns and know very well what is going on in our warehouse.”

Connor Spence, the Amazon Labor Union’s vice president for membership, said that although hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers in the United States have contacted the ALU for help in organizing since the first victory in Staten Island in April, the union has limited resources to throw behind new campaigns and is reluctant to undertake new organizing projects.

“We’ve had tons of people contacting us, but we can’t start a campaign because of this,” he said. “The difference at ALB1 is that Heather reached out and already had a strong show of support.”

The Amazon Labor Union recently focused on a week-long NLRB hearing, in which Amazon lawyers argued that Staten Island’s election results should be thrown out due to government interference. union and NLRB officials. The NLRB says it will make a decision on whether to overturn the election results in the coming weeks.

Last year, the NLRB rejected the results of a defeated Amazon labor campaign in Bessemer, Alabama, after finding that Amazon had improperly interfered with the election. After a re-election in April, both parties objected to each other’s conduct, and the outcome was delayed by a months-long investigation by the NLRB.