Amazon Workers Should Get Do-Over on Union Vote According to NLRB Official: Report

Amazon workers in Alabama voted against unionization in April.

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An Amazon fulfillment warehouse on March 29, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama.
An Amazon fulfillment warehouse on March 29, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama.
Photo: Elijah Nouvelage (Getty Images)

An official at the National Labor Relations Board has recommended workers at Amazon’s Bessemer warehouse in Alabama be allowed to vote again on unionization after the formation of a union was rejected in April. At least that’s the claim being made by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, which tried and failed to organize workers at the warehouse.

The NLRB hasn’t made a public comment on any potential do-over for the workers who wanted a union, but the Wall Street Journal says a formal announcement could come as soon as today. But the Washington Post notes a decision on whether a new vote should actually happen could be weeks out.

The union drive at Amazon in Alabama was defeated by a 2-to-1 margin back in April, a disappointing failure for labor rights. But pro-union workers complained about a number of issues during the union drive, including everything from anti-union signage in the warehouse to Amazon’s alleged control over ballot boxes for the union vote.

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Those issues are presumably why an official at the NLRB, Kerstin Meyers, has decided that union advocates should get another crack at voting. Meyers heard testimony from warehouse workers in May about tactics that were used by Amazon during the union drive.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment overnight but sent a statement to the Wall Street Journal with all of the usual anti-union language you’d expect:

An Amazon spokeswoman said employees “had a chance to be heard during a noisy time when all types of voices were weighing into the national debate, and at the end of the day, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of a direct connection with their managers and the company.” Amazon will appeal the recommendation, she said.

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The Washington Post explains that one of the most controversial moves by Amazon was the company’s installation of a voting box on the company’s property despite the vote taking place by mail-in:

At the center of claims about the vote is a U.S. Postal Service mailbox that popped up in front of the warehouse just after voting started. The union alleged the mailbox could have led workers to think Amazon had a role in collecting and counting ballots, potentially influencing their votes. In its case, the union cited emails that show Amazon pressing the Postal Service to install a mailbox urgently just as the seven-week mail-in balloting began.

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The recommendation to hold a new vote—provided that’s actually the plan and the union hasn’t been misinformed in some way—will now be decided by the Atlanta office of the NLRB. But the RWDSU hasn’t given up the effort to give workers a fighting chance in Bessemer.

“Throughout the NLRB hearing, we heard compelling evidence how Amazon tried to illegally interfere with and intimidate workers as they sought to exercise their right to form a union,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU said in a statement published online.

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“We support the hearing officer’s recommendation that the NLRB set aside the election results and direct a new election. As President Biden reminded us earlier this year, the question of whether or not to have a union is supposed to be the workers’ decision and not the employer’s,” Appelbaum continued.

“Amazon’s behavior throughout the election process was despicable. Amazon cheated, they got caught, and they are being held accountable.”