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Amazon warehouse workers in upstate New York seek to unionize

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Amazon employees in a facility near Albany, New York, are the latest to petition for a union election.

Staff at the facility have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board.

They want to join the independent Amazon Labor Union, which scored a historic win on Staten Island in April, becoming the first Amazon warehouse in the US to form a union.

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If it succeeds, it will be Amazon's third election for the Amazon Labor Union and the fourth vote on unionization in the company's recent history.

To hold an election, unions typically require signed authorization cards from more than 30 percent of eligible union members.

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The Amazon Labor Union did not disclose the number of signatures it had collected from Albany employees but has previously stated that they have crossed the level needed.

The union, which has primarily organized employees in New York, is demanding pay hikes and safer work environments.

It has often accused Amazon of unlawfully retaliating against unionized workers, including in Albany.

At least five unfair labor practice cases have been filed, alleging that the firm illegally imposed a policy restricting employees from "access[ing] Amazon buildings or work areas during off-duty periods."

These accusations are now being investigated.

Last month, organizers at the warehouse just outside Albany's city limits revealed their intention to unionize.

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Heather Goodall, a lead organizer of the union campaign in Albany said: “The main concerns I hear from workers are about wages and safety.” 

“Besides that, there’s no job security. There’s no way to rest on a 15-minute break. Workers want to be able to use the bathroom freely.”

Amazon, the nation's second-largest private employer, has been increasingly targeted by labor unions such as the Retail, Warehouse, and Department Store Union and the Teamsters.

But it was the independent, grass-roots Amazon Labor Union that grabbed the first major win at Amazon in April when it secured union representation at a Staten Island warehouse.

Amazon challenged the election results, and the labor board's verdict is still pending after a months-long hearing this summer.

However, recent organizing efforts, like the petition in Albany, suggests momentum in the labor movement at Amazon is moving forward

READ MORE: AMAZON TO BUILD WESTERN NEW YORK WAREHOUSE TO CREATE 1,000 JOBS

In recent weeks, the corporation has allegedly circulated anti-union propaganda around the warehouse on flyers and digital TV screens with the message "don't sign a card."

Management has also conducted group meetings in which they have cautioned workers about the consequences of forming a union.

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Amazon has lodged objections to the Amazon Labor Union's victory in Staten Island, and the labor board's decision on that hearing is likely later this month.

The trial has slowed the negotiating process, and it may be months or years before the union achieves a collective bargaining deal on Staten Island.

The outcome of a union election in Bessemer, Alabama, where workers voted twice on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, is also being contested owing to objections and appeals on both sides.

In a future filing, the labor board will disclose the dates and ways for holding the election in Albany.

Source: The Washington Post

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