Backed by a grassroots labour group that won the first union victory of an Amazon warehouse in the US, workers at another warehouse filed a petition Tuesday for elections in New York, hoping for a similar result.
A spokesman for the National Labor Relations Board said the petition was filed for a warehouse called ALB1, located in the town of Schodack, about 10 miles (16 kilometres) southeast of Albany.
To qualify for union elections, the NLRB requires the signature of 30% of eligible voters at a specific facility. Whether or not employees have reached that limit will be hashed out in the coming weeks.
Amazon spokesman Paul Flanigan said the company has about 1,000 warehouse workers at the Shodeck location. But in the filing, Amazon Labor Union, the nascent union that supports workers, said the bargaining unit would have about 400 workers.
Heather Goodall, a warehouse worker and a former insurance agent leading the organizing effort, said earlier this month that workers had enough support to file a union petition but were choosing to delay picking up even more signatures. On Tuesday, she said the group’s attorneys were not ready to release information on the number of signatures collected to the public.
The NLRB must now verify if the workers who signed the petition are qualified to seek an election. If the agency approves, it will sort out dates and times for an election between the company and the Amazon Labor Union, which pulled off a union win on Staten Island, New York, in April.
The union, composed of former and current warehouse workers, began backing organizing efforts in upstate New York after it was approached by Goodall, who joined Amazon in February to scope out the company’s working conditions. She quickly began talking to her co-workers about organizing and launched the union campaign in May along with a group of other workers.
Soon after, Goodall said she met with the Teamsters and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, or RWDSU, which also took on Amazon during a union election at a facility in Bessemer, Alabama the results of which are still being contested.
Ultimately, she said the organizers decided to pursue a more grassroots approach and align with the ALU, based on a belief that the group understands the company better than other established unions.
“It looks like we work directly with them and continue to build the Amazon labour union nationally,” Goodall said.
A Labor victory at Shodack would broaden the ALU’s support within the Amazon and turn it into a touch point for labour concerns beyond Staten Island. It may also revive the excitement that began to flow after the group’s May loss of a second warehouse on Staten Island and reports that it halted the holding of two other facilities.
At the same time, the ALU is defending its lone victory against Amazon, which has filed more than two dozen objections to that election. During the week-long, contentious hearing of the NLRB that ended in mid-July, lawyers for both sides attempted to discredit the claims of others. A decision on that matter is expected in the coming weeks.
Organizers say Amazon has already begun holding meetings with workers in Schodack to discourage them from unionizing. In a statement, Flanigan, the Amazon spokesperson, said employees could choose what they want to do.
“As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” Flanigan said. “Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work.”
Meanwhile, dozens of TikTok creators are pledging to stop business with Amazon until it meets the union’s demands, such as a minimum wage of $30 an hour and longer breaks. On Tuesday, the nonprofit Gen-Z for Change unveiled a campaign backed by roughly 70 content creators who say they will refuse to monetize their platforms for Amazon unless “tangible changes” are made to improve working conditions.
“Amazon’s widespread mistreatment of their workers and blatant use of union-busting tactics will no longer be tolerated by the TikTok Community or TikTok Creators,” said the group’s letter on Twitter.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the campaign.
Other campaigns have been underway at company warehouses in states like Kentucky and North Carolina as workers attempt to gather enough signatures to petition for their elections. Among other things, workers in upstate New York are calling for better training at the company’s warehouse and higher wages.
“We have employees that are unable even to make it to work because they can’t afford gas,” Goodall said. “They can’t afford car repairs; they can’t afford to support their families.”
The petition comes amid broader scrutiny into Amazon and its warehouse operations across the country. On Monday, dozens of workers at a company air hub in San Bernardino, California, walked off the job to protest low wages and safety from heat.