Goodall soon concluded “that the rumors were true,” about Amazon’s harsh working conditions. She witnessed injuries, high turnover, and signs telling workers “No Covid pay. No excuses” in defiance of state law, she says. Ambulances are a common sight outside the warehouse, Goodall says, and one once came for her after her heart condition flared up while on shift. “When you see it on a daily or weekly basis, it becomes normalized, and people stop questioning it,” she says.
Analysis of 2020 US Occupational Safety and Health Administration data by The Washington Post and 2021 data by the Strategic Organizing Center labor coalition found that Amazon warehouse workers faced roughly twice the injury rate of those working in similar workplaces. This summer, OSHA launched probes into Amazon, investigating warehouse safety and deaths at the company.
Goodall and ALB1 workers began organizing with ALU in June and filed for an election in August. Amazon soon launched an aggressive anti-union campaign, as it had in response to previous union drives. The company papered the walls at ALB1 with “Vote no” signs, projected anti-union messages on screens throughout the warehouse, flew in staff to walk the floors and quiz workers about the union, and held meetings during which Amazon representatives delivered anti-union talking points.
The ALU responded, as it had before, by documenting and publicizing Amazon’s actions. Goodall started a GoFundMe to raise money for workers who believed they faced retaliation for organizing, including links to photos and videos of clashes with management and anti-union messaging. Amazon also called the police on Goodall and ALU members while they campaigned at ALB1, saying they were trespassing; the workers say they were exercising their legal rights to organize.
Amazon’s determined opposition to unions, high worker turnover, and sprawling warehouses have led to disagreements about the best way for workers to stand up to the company. The ALU, founded by Amazon employees, says it has a deeper understanding of the conditions and culture at Amazon, and can better relate to workers. But Goodall initially started working with the Teamsters, which as a large and established union has more resources and experience countering corporate pushback. After a disagreement over strategy, she switched to the ALU.
Amazon has also challenged the ALU’s historic victory in Staten Island, lodging complaints against the union and the US National Labor Relations Board. After a month of hearings this summer, an NLRB hearing officer recommended rejecting the company’s complaints. Nonetheless, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy has said the company is gearing up for a long fight over what he called “disturbing irregularities” in the voting process, suggesting plans to appeal to the federal courts.
Overall, Amazon appears committed to using any means possible to grind down unions, from the warehouse floor to the NLRB, and soon perhaps to the courts. Labor experts say that weak labor law in the US and an understaffed NLRB create a system ripe for exploitation by large companies. Even if Amazon knows it has little chance of winning, “the appeal is the point,” says San Francisco State University labor studies director John Logan. “What they want to do is kill the union campaign, to make the workers feel that it’s futile, that Amazon will never give up in its opposition.”