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Amazon claims victory after warehouse workers in Alabama vote to reject union
Retail union accuses the tech giant of illegally swaying votes, files complaint
Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, voted against unionization, according to results announced on Friday.
The battle waged by pro-union workers, represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), was regarded as a crucial first step for fighting against working conditions at Amazon’s so-called fulfillment centers. The threat to the e-commerce giant could potentially set a precedent for other warehouses across the US to unionize.
But their efforts were shut down, after the majority of their colleagues voted against them. “Thank you to employees at our BHM1 fulfillment center in Alabama for participating in the election,” Amazon said in a statement.
“There’s been a lot of noise over the past few months, and we’re glad that your collective voices were finally heard. In the end, less than 16 per cent of the employees at BHM1 voted to join the RWDSU union.”
Amazon’s critical Alabama warehouse workers union vote has started … and may be some timeREAD MORE
The fight isn’t over yet, however. The RWDSU announced it was filing objections with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency in charge of enforcing labor laws. It accused Amazon of illegally interfering in the vote, making it difficult to hold a free and fair election.
“Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees,” the RWDSU’s president, Stuart Appelbaum, said in a statement.
“We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote. Amazon knew full well that unless they did everything they possibly could, even illegal activity, their workers would have continued supporting the union.”
The RWDSU said Amazon employed intimidation and manipulation tactics to sway the election. Employees were forced to attend lectures detailing the disadvantages of unionising, it was alleged. It was also accused of lying about the repercussions, as well as flooding workers with anti-union messages posted at work and in text messages and phone calls to their homes.
Votes in the election were cast using mail-in ballots only to minimize contact during the pandemic. In a press briefing, Appelbaum said that the NLRB had forbade the company from installing a drop box at work.
“It creates an impression of surveillance. It gives the impression that Amazon and not the government is conducting the election.” But he said Amazon ignored the NLRB and pressured the Post Office into setting up a mailbox anyway.
He also accused of Amazon spreading lies and misinformation. It told workers they had to mail their votes by 1 March when the deadline was actually 29 March, in an attempt to make sure they spent less time engaging with the union, he alleged. Officials also threatened to shut down the warehouse if the union was successful, and said that hundreds of dollars from their paychecks would go to the union, he claimed.
“These are tricks that billion-dollar companies do,” Mike, a pro-union worker at the briefing, added. He said that many of his colleagues had already voted no out of fear of losing their jobs before they had heard the arguments in support of the RWDSU. Some wanted to change their votes but couldn’t. “What kind of fear is that to put in a person?.”
Amazon was not immediately available to respond to The Register’s questions. ®