Trade Union Evidence Could Overturn Amazon Vote, Labor Board Says

Amazon’s protracted vote over whether to form a trade union at a fulfilment centre in Alabama, may not be over.

Earlier this month, Amazon roundly defeated a high-profile effort to unionise a warehouse in Alabama, following a months-long campaign against the unionisation drive.

Workers at the Bessemer, Alabama facility voted 1,798 to 738 against the project, according to US labour officials.

Image credit: Amazon

Bessemer vote

The vote 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 the Bessemer warehouse, known as BHM1, were eligible to vote to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

In December staff at the Amazon fullfilment centre in Bessemer (Alabama) were 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 had already appealed 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 RWDSU.

The matter quickly became political, 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 the end, workers at the Bessemer, Alabama facility voted 1,798 to 738 against the project.

Image credit: Amazon

Overturning the vote?

But that was not the end of the matter.

On Wednesday Reuters quoted the National Labor Relations Board as saying 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 NLRB will hold a hearing on 7 May to consider objections filed by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

“The evidence submitted by the union in support of its objections could be grounds for overturning the election if introduced at a hearing,” the labor board reportedly said.

The RWDSU reportedly submitted nearly two dozen objections to Amazon’s conduct during the election, which it said prevented staff from a “free and uncoerced exercise of choice”.

The RWDSU 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 has denied the allegations.

Union opposition

However it is no secret Amazon was no fan of the vote in the first place.

Amazon is second-largest private employer in the United States (with 800,000 US staff), 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.

Amazon also reportedly trained managers to spot organising activity.

In September 2020 Amazon 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.”

To be fair, in October 2020 Amazon 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.

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...

Recent Posts

Russia Seeks To Fine Google, Meta On Annual Turnover

Russian regulator applies to court to fine US tech giants percentage of annual Russian turnover,…

10 hours ago

The Business of the Metaverse

Is Facebook’s vision of the Metaverse a realistic proposition for businesses? Silicon UK spoke to…

12 hours ago

Apple Loses Engineering Director From Car Project

Another departure of a major figure from Apple's much delayed Car project, as director of…

1 day ago

Former Google Scientist Timnit Gebru Founds AI Institute

One year after her controversial exit from Alphabet's Google, AI scientist Timnit Gebru launches small…

1 day ago