Updated: Nov 3
It may seem strange to claim victory after losing the recent union election at Amazon’s ALB1 warehouse in Schodack, but that’s exactly what Amazon Labor Union organizer and ALB1 worker Heather Goodall did on October 18, and she was right to do so.
In one view, Amazon has a decided advantage in these labor struggles. Amazon is a trillion dollar, global corporation, in a country where labor law overwhelmingly favors the business over the worker. Amazon can threaten, harass, and outspend any organizing efforts, and accept any miniscule penalties they may face for violating the law. At ALB1, just as in two Staten Island warehouses and everywhere workers have tried to organize a union, Amazon has done all of this and more.
At ALB1 alone, Amazon hired a small army of anti-union ‘consultants’ at pay rates of $3,200 per day. Amazon would find any excuse to fire workers who were known to support the union. Workers were subjected to ‘captive audience’ meetings, where anti-union ‘consultants’ would perpetuate lies about unions and seek to dissuade workers from signing cards or voting ‘yes’. The warehouse was blanketed with anti-union messaging on screens and in break rooms.
Meanwhile, pro-union workers were threatened with removal and had the police called repeatedly, to prevent them from talking with their co-workers. The deck is stacked in Amazon’s favor at every step of the way.
This is but one view. While the forces arrayed against the union are strong, they are not invincible. Despite everything Amazon threw at them, over 200 workers at the ALB1 facility voted to send a message to Amazon. They are tired of being treated like machines instead of people. These workers learned about and asserted their rights. They connected with workers in other facilities around the country to build networks of knowledge and solidarity. They supported one another through health crises caused by Amazon safety violations and when their members were fired for organizing. The simple fact of their organizing led Amazon to make certain concessions, most notably via wage increases. Every Amazon worker has the union, and the union alone, to thank for that.
These lessons are hard won victories, and whether they decide to stay at this warehouse and continue to organize, or seek work elsewhere, these lessons will stay with the workers.
Most importantly, the workers at ALB1 have joined their voices with those of countless others in our country to say ‘Enough is enough!’ Amidst an unprecedented global pandemic, skyrocketing rents and increased cost-of-living, and soaring corporate profits, the workers at massive corporations like Amazon, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and others, are taking a stand. These corporations could easily improve the conditions and standards of living for all of their workers, who are the ones actually producing value and profit for the corporation. Yet they refuse to do so because that would put a dent in their already exorbitant profits. We know these corporations are terrified of their workers being organized precisely because the corporations expend so many resources to stop that organizing in its tracks.
Amazon may have won a temporary victory, but the suits at the top shouldn’t rest too easy. These workers are just getting started.