© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Amazon workers at Schodack plant join national unionization efforts

 Kenneth Arrington, Connor Spence, Heather Goodall address reporters outside the Leo W. O'Brien Federal Building in Albany.
Dave Lucas
Kenneth Arrington, Connor Spence, Heather Goodall address reporters outside the Leo W. O'Brien Federal Building in Albany.

Workers at Amazon's 1 million-square-foot Schodack facility continue to move toward unionizing.

Speaking Wednesday in Albany, ALB 1 Voices United Union campaign manager Heather Goodall gave an update after workers filed with the National Labor Relations Board to start the official union process and hold a union election. She says employees want a "living wage" and job safety.

"Those are the top two priorities," Goodall said. "However, one of the things that we're missing in a turnover of 150% is job security. We can't have employees coming to work every day worried, 'can I take a bathroom break?' 'Can I get a drink, it's 90 degrees in here, I feel like I'm going to pass out and I need to, you know, to stay hydrated.' We need to know that people aren't going to come to work and God forbid risk their life. Like we have seen in New Jersey and recently a 23-year-old in Pennsylvania. That is a risk that every single day employees take when they walk into this building. We need to eliminate that risk. The other thing Amazon has created a culture of fear of fear and employees for a variety of reasons. We need that security for workers to come to work be paid a fair wage in an environment that's safe and also provides job security.”

Goodall there referencing an Amazon employee who died from injuries received in an August 1st forklift accident.

She says since organizers first announced their intentions last month, Amazon has taken a "tremendous" anti-union stance at the Rensselaer County plant, which she says has about 640 workers.

"We've had the police called on us. We've had our signs taken down, we've had disciplinary action taken against our employees that have participated."

Goodall was employed by Amazon in February.

“July 2, I left by ambulance and I haven't been back," Goodall said. "So I'm still on medical leave even though I got my release to go back, they're doing everything in their power to keep me out of the building but they're not keeping me out of the campaign that's for sure.”

Worker-organizer at Amazon's JFK 8 on Staten Island, Amazon Labor Secretary-Treasurer Connor Spence, says employees systemwide have reached a breaking point.

"In Staten Island as a JFK worker, we won our election," said Spence. "And it was notable because we're an independent grassroots union, we essentially had to build our union from the ground up. And there have been challenges associated with that. I'm glad we did it, because it's making us a stronger union. And it'll make us a stronger union in the end. But it's been like forming a startup, really. And we've had to maintain our presence in the building that we've won, and also balance doing campaigns at other warehouses. Thankfully, our model is, and this is the model that works: we encourage and empower Amazon workers to organize themselves, like we did with Heather. And that's why, you know, up until now, it was really rare for Amazon buildings to even have union elections. And now in the last year, how many have we, you know, we're already at four.”

An Amazon spokesperson responded to a request for comment by email, writing "employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union," and "we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees," noting Amazon has received copies of documents union organizers filed Tuesday with the NLRB. He adds, "we might weigh in later, once we’ve had a chance to review the filing."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
Related Content