Union says Amazon interfered with Alabama warehouse vote

Amazon beat back a push to unionize in its Bessemer, Alabama fulfillment center thanks to a surprisingly one-sided vote — nearly two-thirds of the facility’s workers chose not to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union on April 9th. According to a list of objections filed with the National Labor Relations Board late Friday, however, the union argues Amazon won the vote because it “interfered” with the rights of its employees “to vote in a free and fair election; a right protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.”

“This campaign has proven that the best way for working people to protect themselves and their families is to join together in a union,” said RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum in a statement. “However, Amazon’s behavior during the election cannot be ignored and our union will seek remedy to each and every improper action Amazon took.”

The RWDSU filed 23 objections in total, which allege — among other things — that Amazon had a ballot collection box installed in an employee parking lot “without authorization” from the NLRB’s regional director, and that the placement of that ballot box in full view of Amazon security cameras created “an impression of surveillance” in which the company appeared to be “recording the identity of employees who voted.” 

The union’s argument extends well beyond just voting logistics, too: Amazon reportedly claimed that voting in the union would result in a loss of benefits or pay, and it allegedly removed employees from from meetings “who asked questions about the information presented. (The RWDSU’s full list of objections can be found as a PDF here.) 

“Accordingly,” the complaint reads, “these objections constitute grounds to set the election aside.” 

For now at least, that decision lies with the NLRB’s regional director, whom the RWDSU has petitioned to schedule a hearing on the matter. It’s worth noting that the director’s decision almost certainly won’t be the final one, since both the union and Amazon itself have the ability to appeal the ruling with the NLRB board directly. From there, the board could affirm the results of the vote, demand that a new one be held, or — as CNBC notes — force Amazon to bargain with the union if its conduct was found to be “extraordinarily egregious.”

Neither the NLRB or Amazon have commented on the RWDSU’s objections today, but an Amazon spokesperson wrote in a blog post shortly after the vote that “it’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true. Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers and media outlets than they heard from us.” While that might be true, we’ll likely soon find out if the things workers in Alabama did hear from Amazon could put a union push back on the table.

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