Amazon workers in Albany prepare for pivotal union vote

Yahoo Finance's Allie Garfinkle explains why the latest Amazon union vote in Albany, New York, is significant for the e-commerce giant, plus how Amazon warehouses are preparing for Prime Day.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. Starbucks is being urged to work with unions as ongoing labor negotiations continue to progress, with nearly 250 Starbucks storefronts already unionized. Lawmakers sent a letter pushing for the coffee chain to work with the movement. They also expressed concerns that the company may be discriminating against workers who are unionizing by withholding wage and benefit increases. We're going to continue to monitor these negotiations as they advance.

Well, sticking with the war on wages and union battles, the Amazon Albany warehouse is set to begin union voting next week in the latest face-off between Amazon and its union. For more on this, let's bring in Yahoo Finance's Allie Garfinkle. Allie, tough to keep track of all the votes that are happening within Amazon unions, but what's the very latest on this?


ALLIE GARFINKLE: Yeah, there's a lot going on, Akiko. But this is an important one. I was talking to experts, and what they were all saying was this is existential for both parties. On one hand, you have the Amazon labor union, which needs to prove that it can drum up enough support to really gain some negotiating power in the long-term.

And on the other hand, you have Amazon, which needs to prove that it can keep this union wave at bay. It succeeded most recently at Staten Island again, but the pressure is back on is what I'm hearing. Ultimately, what experts are telling me, Akiko, is that this vote is pivotal. And it could set the tone not only for Amazon, but for the labor movement in the United States going forward.

AKIKO FUJITA: And Allie, this union vote happening around the same time as Prime early access, the second Prime Day of the year. What do we know about how these major events could be affected in the warehouses?

ALLIE GARFINKLE: So we do know that Prime Days are times of high pressure in warehouses. The injuries are more likely. Workers I've spoken to are usually also more scared of becoming injured during Prime Days because they are pressured to move faster. That said, Amazon, there are indications Amazon is taking steps to improve the situation. For instance, that recent pay raise for warehouse and delivery workers we saw last week.

Ultimately, you have a lot of eyes on Amazon right now. OSHA is investigating Amazon's warehouse. Unions are paying more attention than ever. The pressure is on at Amazon to prove that they can be a great employer.

AKIKO FUJITA: And Allie, really quickly, I realize a lot of these are sort of playing out over a period of months. But when you think about the fundamental case for Amazon, so much of it is about their scale and their speed as well. I mean, as we see these union discussions take hold, what are we likely to see in terms of the impact on the business itself, specifically the e-commerce side?

ALLIE GARFINKLE: I think that's a great question, Akiko, and I think we don't know quite yet. I think what we do know is that Amazon is, one, willing to spend more money to improve conditions for workers so they are less likely to unionize. Could that hit the bottom line? We'll see. No analysts I've spoken to are worried about it just yet. But I think it's a thing to definitely consider down the line.

I also think that the thing Amazon's most known for, right, that kind of seamless delivery, it'll be interesting to see if-- especially if the Amazon union is victorious here, if, as they kind of gain some power, that will affect delivery times for consumers. Amazon says they're obsessed with the consumer, but we're going to-- we might see a point where that starts to hit where it interacts with its workers.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, certainly a lot of threats to follow there. Allie Garfinkle, thanks so much for that.