Amazon Appeals US Labor Ruling Over Union Vote

Amazon and US authorities after reportedly clashing over unionisation attempts by Amazon workers (or associates) at a fulfilment centre in Bessemer, Alabama.

In December it emerged staff were being asked whether they should unionise and join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

The organising committee had conducted a social media campaign, shared union authorisation cards and collected enough to hold the election.

Amazon appeal

But issues still remain it seems, as Amazon wants workers to vote in person rather than by mail, the Guardian reported.

The e-commerce giant is reportedly appealing against a ruling by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officer to permit 5,800 employees at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, to begin casting ballots by mail to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

The NLRB, the federal agency responsible for enforcing US labor law, favours manual elections but has moved to supporting mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. It seems that 90 percent of voting regulated by NLRB in 2020 was carried out by mail rather than in-person.

Want to know about the history of Amazon? Try our Tales in Tech History piece.

But lawyers representing Amazon reportedly filed an appeal on 21 January, arguing a mail-in ballot election would take too long and involve too many resources.

It requested the board postpone the election until the NLRB reviews Amazon’s appeals.

The NLRB is currently scheduled to begin mailing out ballots for the election on 8 February.

If successful, Amazon workers at the BHM1 warehouse in Bessemer would be Amazon’s first warehouse in the United States to unionise.

Amazon is second-biggest private employer in the United States, behind Walmart, but it reportedly launched an anti-union website targeted at its warehouse workers in Alabama, emphasising union dues to try to dissuade workers from unionising.

Union opposition

Indeed, it is fair to say the e-commerce giant has resisted staff joining unions in the Untied States, and has told workers it already offers the pay and benefits that unions promise.

It has also reportedly trained managers to spot organising activity.

In October 2020 Amazon however said it would respect the rights of workers to join a trade union, after media reports suggested it planned to tracking union activity in its workforce.

The previous month in September, Amazon had landed itself in hot water over two job adverts for “intelligence analysts”, who would be responsible for reporting on activities “including labour organising threats against the company.”

Amazon however said the adverts were badly worded and withdrew the adverts, but credence was added to the suspicion it was hiring people to spy on trade unions as the job listings cited previous experience desired for the role, which said “an officer in the intelligence community, the military, law enforcement, or a related global security role in the private sector.”

Amazon has also previously experienced trade union disruption in France and Germany.

In February 2019, Amazon cancelled plans to build one of its second headquarters in New York, after the e-commerce giant encountered unexpected local opposition to its plans, partly down to its opposing unionisation.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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