AL: Amazon Workers Vote Not to Unionize at Bessemer Warehouse
12 Apr, 2021
Workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse have voted not to unionize, a major victory for the e-commerce giant but not the end of the fight for labor organizers, The Hill reports.
Out of the 3,215 employees who participated, 1,798 "no" votes and 738 "yes" votes were recorded. Fifty-percent plus one of the employees would have had to vote “yes” for the union to gain National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recognition.
“It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true,” Amazon said in a blog post. “We’re not perfect, but we’re proud of our team and what we offer, and will keep working to get better every day.”
Although the initial vote has gone against them, the union plans to challenge the results.
"We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote," Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) President Stuart Applebaum said. "Amazon knew full well that unless they did everything they possibly could, even illegal activity, their workers would have continued supporting the union."
The vote count had been going on for over four hours when Amazon reached the threshold needed to guarantee a win, starting Thursday afternoon before wrapping up Friday morning. NLRB staff hand counted each ballot, double checking the count after every hundred votes in each direction.
Amazon and the RWDSU both had in-person representatives watching the vote, which was streamed publicly on Zoom to a small number of outsiders.
The union went public last October, just months after the Bessemer plant opened.
Workers at the facility had raised concerns about intense work quotas, insufficient wages and Amazon’s handling of employee safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
Amazon maintained since the beginning of the unionization push that it provided sufficient wages and worker protections, warning employees against voting "yes."
Workers were critical of some of the company's tactics, like petitioning to change traffic lights or installing a mailbox in the parking lot.
That latter tactic is likely to precipitate a challenge from the RWDSU, especially after the union obtained emails between Postal Service employees showing that Amazon pressed the agency to install the box just as voting began.
John Logan, an expert on anti-union strategy at San Francisco State University, told The Hill that the mailbox placement “appears to be a form of ballot harvesting and thus a violation of federal law.”
“The NLRB twice rejected the company’s arguments for an on-site election during the pandemic, but Amazon bullied the USPS into giving it an on-site mailbox at the start of the election period,” he explained. “Essentially, the NLRB told Amazon, 'no onsite voting,' and the company used its leverage as the Postal Service's biggest customer to circumvent the NLRB decision.”
The union could also challenge Amazon’s messaging efforts, which include the company holding captive audience meetings, sending text messages that one employee told The Hill reminded them of a stalker ex or launching a website that falsely told workers they would have to pay dues if the union won.
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