Amazon won enough votes Friday to defeat the union movement at one of its Alabama warehouses, dealt a blow to organized workers hoping to unionise a U.S. Amazon facility for the first time.
Of the 3,215 ballots cast, 1,798 votes were against the union and 738 were in favor. Approximately 5,800 Bessemer camp employees were eligible to vote to join the retail, wholesale and department store union.
To defeat the union, Amazon had to get 1,608 votes, or just over 50% of the votes cast. The profit margin is greater than the 500 or so challenged ballot papers, which would only have been counted if they had influenced the election result. The election result has yet to be officially confirmed by the NLRB.
RWDSU said it plans to question the election results. The union said it intends to raise objections to Amazon’s voting behavior with the NLRB, as well as a number of unfair labor practices charges. “Amazon has violated the rights of its employees in Bessemer, Alabama, in a free and fair election.”
The union effort in Alabama turned into a protracted labor dispute at Amazon, where the company hired the same law firm it helped negotiate with a failed union action in Delaware in 2014. Amazon also made its position on the union campaign clear to workers at the Bessemer facility by holding mandatory meetings, setting up a website encouraging workers to “act free of charge” and distributing leaflets instructing workers to vote “NO” in the historic elections.
The union specifically called out a mailbox installed in front of the Bessemer facility, including claims that it was installed by the U.S. Postal Service at the direction of Amazon. Amazon said it installed the mailbox for employee convenience and added that only the USPS would have access to the mailbox.
In a statement, RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said Amazon had “left no stone unturned in supplying its own employees with gas”.
“We will not allow the lies, deceit and illegal activities of Amazon to go unchallenged. That is why we are officially bringing charges against all outrageous and obviously illegal measures that Amazon took during the union vote,” said Appelbaum. “We call for a full investigation into Amazon’s behavior in corrupting this election.”
Representatives from Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Both RWDSU and Amazon are to hold press conferences after the election results.
The challenges are likely to spark a lengthy legal battle over whether Amazon engaged in anti-union behavior that prevented the possibility of a fair election. RWDSU said it was ready to provide evidence to the NLRB of complaints alleging that Amazon violated labor law.
The vote concludes months of intense campaigns from both Amazon and RWDSU. In November, workers at the Bessemer plant announced that they would hold a union election. RWDSU organizers were stationed in front of the Bessemer plant every day in the hope of catching Amazon employees on their way home.
Campaign support increased in the months that followed, including critical endorsement from President Joe Biden who, without naming Amazon, discouraged any employer interference in the election.
Amazon has long been a target for large unions. The Teamsters, the United Food & Commercial Workers Union and the RWDSU quietly meet with warehouse and delivery workers. The coronavirus pandemic, the explosion of protests against Black Lives Matter last summer, and mounting concerns about workplace safety have sparked interest in the organization of Amazon warehouses.
In a statement, Randy Korgan, Amazon’s director for Teamsters, praised RWDSU’s efforts to organize Amazon employees in Alabama.
“Although workers in Bessemer are facing off against one of the richest men in the world in a country with weak labor laws, they have drawn national attention to problems faced by many non-union workers in the industry,” Korgan said. “This fight is not over yet and the Teamsters will always support workers who want to build power by standing together and demanding dignity, a secure job and a fair return on their work.”
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