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If at first Amazon doesn't let you succeed, try, try again: Warehouse workers given second chance at union vote

US watchdog tosses previous result in the trash after election fairness slammed

America's labor watchdog has given workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, another crack at voting for unionization after their first attempt failed earlier this year.

“It is ordered that the election that commenced on February 8 is set aside, and a new election shall be conducted,” Lisa Henderson, regional director at the National Labor Relations Board, ruled [PDF] on Tuesday.

“The National Labor Relations Board will conduct a second secret ballot election among the unit employees. Employees will vote whether they wish to be represented for purposes of collective bargaining by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.”

It was hoped a successful vote in Alabama would encourage other Amazon fulfillment centers to unionize. The battle between pro-union staff and their bosses caught the attention of President Joe Biden, who supported workers’ rights to fight for better working conditions. All hopes were dashed, however, when less than 13 per cent of workers at the warehouse, known as BH1, voted in favor of unionising.

Out of roughly 5,860 voters, only 738 supported joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) while 1,798 votes were against it. Another 505 ballots were challenged. While Amazon declared the result a victory, RWDSU cried foul and filed objections with the labor board. The union accused the internet bazaar of illegally interfering with the election by intimidating and gas-lighting workers.


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Amazon was said to have installed a mailbox, into which ballots could be posted, in front of the warehouse inside a tent covered with anti-union messages under the gaze of surveillance cameras. Workers were also told to attend mandatory lectures arguing against unionizing. A hearing officer from the labor board said it was "impossible" to hold a fair and free election in these circumstances, and recommended a fresh union vote. This week, the board formally agreed.

“[The] decision confirms what we were saying all along – that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace – and as the regional director has indicated, that is both unacceptable and illegal,” Stuart Appelbaum, President of RWDSU, said in a statement. “Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union.”

The web goliath may have to face another union battle, too. A group representing workers at Amazon's warehouses on Staten Island, New York, were keen to petition the labor board to hold a vote to unionize.

Amazon did not immediately respond to The Register's request for comment. ®

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