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Amazon Labor Union files objections over Schodack defeat

Amazon's ALB1 facility in Schodack, NY
Lucas Willard
Amazon's ALB1 facility in Schodack, NY

The Amazon Labor Union is objecting to the results of the recent union election at the retailer’s Schodack fulfillment center, where employees chose not to organize by a two-to-one margin.

The National Labor Relations Board in Albany tallied the votes at Amazon’s ALB1 facility in Schodack on October 18th. The eyes of the labor world were watching, hoping the Rensselaer County facility would become the retailer’s second workplace where employees voted to join the Amazon Labor Union.

But the effort fell far short.

Speaking to reporters that day, ALB1 union campaign organizer Heather Goodall said supporters wouldn’t give up.

“Until we work collectively together to fight against the violation of our rights, the violation of the law, it’s going to continue, that is the challenge that we have. And we really need to spotlight the fact that these workers voices were silenced by aggressive union-busting tactics,” said Goodall.

ALU president and founder Christian Smalls called the count a “sham election.”

Days later, the ALU filed 23 objections with the NLRB, claiming workers were threatened, coerced, and retaliated against in the run-up to the union vote.

Union attorney Seth Goldstein…

“This isn’t just labor violations. This is really sickening and should not be tolerated. And I think people who are objective can see that this isn’t just an election that was lost because of lack of organizing, but was done because Amazon doesn’t…they think that they’re above the law,” said Goldstein.

Included in the 23 objections are complaints about consultants employed by Amazon ahead of the vote. Supporters allege they suppressed the voices of union supporters and held “captive audience” meetings to persuade workers to vote against organizing. An Amazon spokesperson told WAMC the meetings were held “because it’s important that everyone understands the facts about joining a union and the election process itself.”

Objections also reference employees who were disciplined or terminated, which the ALU claims is in retaliation to its organizing activities.

Michael Verrastro, a union supporter who is suffering from prostate cancer, was terminated from ALB1 in September, which he claims is because he kicked an empty box in a warehouse area out of frustration over working conditions.

“I don’t know what happened, really. My supervisors had seen me kicking boxes in the past and had never said a word to me about it. And I’m talking at least on four or five occasions, where I kicked a box and they more or less just shrugged their shoulders and – like I said – no discipline, no write-up, no nothing. And then all of a sudden out of the blue, I kick a box and they terminate me,” said Verrastro.

Verrastro said his employer knew of his union support and his outspokenness over persuasive tactics used by Amazon.

“Like in the break rooms they used to have these little display screens that said ‘Vote no. Or vote no on a union.’ And to me it was just over-the-top,” said Verrastro.

Asked for comment about the objections, an Amazon spokesperson issued a statement that reads:

“These objections and allegations are without merit and we are confident that through this process the majority of our employees’ voices will continue to be heard.”

By welcoming the results of the ALB1 union election, Attorney Goldstein says Amazon is acting hypocritically as the retail giant continues to object to the first successful unionization effort in Staten Island earlier this year.

“It’s basically if you get the result you want, you’re OK with it. If not, you litigate,” said Goldstein.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.