Amazon’s Alabama Warehouse To Vote Again On Trade Union

Image credit: Amazon

Not the right outcome? Workers and staff at Amazon fulfilment centre in Bessemer, Alabama to vote again whether it should unionise

Amazon is looks like it will have to contend with another trade union vote at its fulfilment centre in Bessemer, Alabama.

CNBC has reported that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has authorised a new union election at the warehouse, otherwise known known as BHM1.

It comes after workers and staff at the facility overwhelmingly voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in April this year.

Image credit: Amazon
Image credit: Amazon

Trade union vote

The union vote in April was considered a test of whether it might be possible to organise workers at Amazon, the US’ second-largest employer, which has remained union-free in the country to date.

Union officials had hoped that workers might be open to the idea after the pandemic focused worldwide attention on working conditions at Amazon.

Approximately 5,800 workers at BHM1 were eligible to vote to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) – a move Amazon opposed.

However the vote quickly became a political issue, after the vote was backed by US President Joe Biden, as well as prominent Democrats including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as well as Stacey Abrams.

But in April this year, Amazon roundly defeated the high-profile effort to unionise, after the workers at the Bessemer, Alabama facility voted 1,798 to 738 against the project.

Alleged misconduct

But soon after that vote, the National Labor Relations Board said that evidence submitted by a retail union over Amazon’s alleged conduct at the union election in Alabama “could be grounds for overturning the vote.”

The RWDSU had alleged that Amazon’s agents unlawfully threatened employees with closure of the warehouse if they joined the union and that the company emailed a warning it would lay off 75 percent of the proposed bargaining unit because of the union.

Amazon denied those allegations.

But the NLRB was not convinced, and in August an NLRB official recommended that the vote was rerun.

Amazon meanwhile is also facing a second major labour organisation effort in the US within a year, after more than 2,000 of its warehouse workers in New York City last month voiced their support for a union.

New vote

Now workers at BHM1 will vote again, after the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union said an NLRB director formally granted a new union election at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama warehouse.

NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado confirmed to CNBC that the agency has ordered a new election, but didn’t specify when the new union election will take place.

After reviewing the evidence and arguments at hand in the case, Region 10 Director Lisa Henderson, based in Atlanta wrote in her decision, “I agree with the hearing officer’s recommendations. Accordingly, I affirm the hearing officer’s rulings, I adopt her recommendation to sustain certain objections, and I order a second election.”

Amazon was not happy at the decision.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told CNBC in a statement that the company disagrees with the NLRB’s decision and that Amazon doesn’t think unions are the best answer for its employees.

“Our employees have always had the choice of whether or not to join a union, and they overwhelmingly chose not to join the RWDSU earlier this year,” Nantel said. “It’s disappointing that the NLRB has now decided that those votes shouldn’t count.”

Of course the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union disagrees.

“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along – that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace – and as the Regional Director has indicated, that is both unacceptable and illegal. Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union,” Union President Stuart Appelbaum was quoted as saying in a statement:

Amazon does have trade unions in some of its European workforces, but so far no American facility has successfully formed or joined a union.