Updated Oct 18, 2022 - Economy & Business

Amazon workers reject union bid in upstate New York

Chris Smalls, a leader of the Amazon Labor Union, leads a march in New York City on Sept. 5.

Chris Smalls, a leader of the Amazon Labor Union, leading a march in New York City in September 2022. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Workers at an Amazon warehouse near Albany, New York, overwhelmingly rejected a union bid on Tuesday, according to a count from the National Labor Relations Board.

Why it matters: The 406 to 206 vote against unionizing deals a major blow to the Amazon Labor Union. It would've been the second Amazon site in the U.S. to unionize.

  • More than 900 workers were eligible to vote at the Albany warehouse, which is known as ALB1.

The union was started by former Amazon worker Christian Smalls and officially formed after workers at a Staten Island warehouse unionized in April — a landmark moment for organized labor and for the e-commerce behemoth, which has resisted unionization efforts in its U.S. operations.

  • It was the second unsuccessful unionization push for the Amazon Labor Union, after a separate Staten Island Amazon warehouse also voted against unionizing in May.
  • The union is asking for "better pay, better benefits, and better working conditions," according to its website.

Our thought bubble, via Scott Rosenberg: Amazon faces a costly high turnover rate in its massive workforce and has tried to boost benefits and wages, offering a new starting $16 hourly rate, to retain workers and fend off union organizing efforts.

  • The company's biggest challenge may be finding enough people to do all the work, as its total U.S. workforce passed the 1 million mark this year.

The big picture: The formation of the Amazon Labor Union had been seen at the time as having the potential to spur union growth at the company's warehouses around the country, though its recent losses suggest otherwise.

  • The National Labor Relations Board has been investigating several charges of unfair labor practices filed against Amazon by the union.
  • In May, the board said its prosecutors determined that Amazon violated federal labor laws by holding mandatory anti-union meetings at the Staten Island warehouse before workers had voted.

The company also sought to overturn the union victory at the other Staten Island warehouse, accusing the Amazon Labor Union of trying to intimidate workers into voting for unionization.

What they're saying: "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. We will continue to empower all workers to give them the right to unionize. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!" Smalls said before the vote on Tuesday.

Go deeper: Amazon suspends multiple workers at Staten Island warehouse after protest

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details throughout.

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