Despite Albany Amazon setback, union surge continues

“It was a sham election,” said Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls, referring to the union representation election at an Amazon warehouse near Albany, New York. “Workers were subjected to intimidation and retaliation on a daily basis and even the workers who volunteered to be election observers were faced with threats of termination.” (CNBC, Oct. 18)

Chris Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union, leads a rally with Amazon workers from the ALB1 warehouse and supporters from other unions, Schodack, New York, Oct. 18. Credit: WAMC

The lopsided results, 406-206 against the ALU, were announced Oct. 18. However, the “no” votes represent less than half of the total workforce at ALB1; about one-third of the 900+ workers did not cast a ballot.

The union filed 27 Unfair Labor Practice charges against Amazon, in the period leading up to the vote, and has since filed more. ALU supporters report that individuals disguised as Amazon workers, including at least one employed by a union-busting consultant, followed workers around and badgered union supporters. The ALU may appeal the results, based on the illegal union-busting tactics Amazon is now well-known for.

Worker resistance to Amazon is continuing, with recent walkouts in California, Georgia and Illinois and union election petitions filed by the ALU in Kentucky and California.

“We are filled with resolve to continue and expand our campaign for fair treatment for all Amazon workers,” Smalls said. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” (New York Times, Oct. 18) The workers want higher pay and better benefits, but most of all they want safe working conditions.

While the Albany vote is a setback, it in no way signals a reversal of the general trend in favor of unions and union organizing.

Consider the union wins at 250+ Starbucks stores in less than a year since the organizing drive began. Consider the first-ever union wins at Apple and REI. And consider the workers who already have unions that are striking and winning, most recently at Sysco in Massachusetts.

A possible national railroad strike — still on the horizon with at least one rail union rejecting the tentative agreement brokered by President Joe Biden — would shut down a big section of the capitalist economy. That frightens the ruling class.

The vote in Albany does not negate the rising tide of worker power and the determination of workers to fight back as giant corporations threaten their health and their lives.

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