A new union election for Amazon employees in Bessemer, Alabama will be based on objections to the first vote in April.
The move comes as a major blow to Amazon, which had spent nearly a year campaigning aggressively for warehouse workers in Bessemer to reject the union, which they eventually did by a wide margin.
It also comes at a time of widespread labor unrest in the US as the somewhat revived US union movement is flexing its muscles in an economy that is trying to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
The rare move was first announced on Monday by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which led the union’s movement. A spokesperson of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) confirmed the decision.
RWDSU accused Amazon of illegal misconduct during the first vote. In August, the NLRB hearing officer who presided over the case determined that Amazon violated labor law and recommended that the regional director set the results aside and directed another election.
The main reason for the determination was the US Postal Service mailbox Amazon installed in the parking lot before the election, which may have left the false impression that the company was running the election. Security cameras in the parking lot could scare off workers who thought Amazon might be voting workers off. About 53% of the roughly 6,000 workers voted during the first election.
RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum sees the NLRB’s decision as a victory.
“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying – that Amazon’s intimidation and interference made workers want to have a union in their workplace or not – and that, as the regional director indicated, is both unacceptable and illegal, ” They said. said in a statement. “Amazon workers deserve a voice at work, which can only come from a union.”
Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel called the decision “disappointing.”
“Our employees always have the choice of whether or not to join a union, and they decided not to join RWDSU earlier this year,” she said. “It is disappointing that the NLRB has now decided that those votes should not be counted.”
But even with the second election, labor experts say a union victory is a long shot. Amazon will probably appeal and try to delay another vote. And even when there is an election, workers can choose to vote against joining a union again. Last time around 1,798 workers rejected the Sangh and 738 voted in its favour.
A repeat of the election means another battle for Amazon with RWDSU. The first poll garnered nationwide attention and shed light on how Amazon treats its employees. It was the largest union campaign in Amazon’s history and only the second time that an organized effort from within the company came to a vote.
Pro-union employees at the Bessemer facility said they spent 10-hour shifts on their feet at the warehouse, where online orders are packed and shipped, and didn’t have enough time to take breaks. A union could force Amazon to offer more break time or higher wages, those workers said. Meanwhile, Amazon argued that it already offered benefits more than double the minimum wage in Alabama without paying workers union dues.
This is the second attempt by Amazon employees to unionize in the past year. A group of Amazon employees in Staten Island, New York, withdrew their petition to vote to unionize in early November. However, activists can file petitions.
The event effort in New York City is operating without the help of a national sponsor and is led by a former Amazon employee, Christian Smalls. He said he was fired just hours after holding a walkout last year to protest working conditions at the start of the pandemic.