Labor board orders a do-over in Amazon warehouse union election – Ars Technica

The Amazon logo on the side of a multistory window.
Enlarge / An Amazon warehouse in Germany on April 2, 2020.

A regional official at the National Labor Relations Board has called for a new union election at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, fulfillment center following recommendations issued in August by a hearing officer. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which seeks to represent workers in the Bessemer warehouse, filed 23 objections disputing the fairness of the election shortly after votes were tallied back in April. 

No date has been set for the new election, and Amazon could still appeal the decision to the full National Labor Relations Board.

The decision to call a new election hinges primarily on a mailbox that Amazon installed in the warehouse’s parking lot to collect ballots. According to the NLRB’s report (PDF), the mailbox was installed without the approval of the NRLB, creating the impression that the box was being surveilled and that Amazon, not the NLRB, was conducting the election. Amazon also installed a tent over the mailbox with Amazon’s anti-union campaign messaging “printed on at least one side,” and the company conducted “mandatory small group meetings” where it provided anti-union campaign materials to employees.

The election that commenced on February 8, 2021, was set aside because the National Labor Relations Board found the Employer interfered with the employees’ exercise of a free and reasoned choice by creating the appearance of irregularity in the election procedure due to issues surrounding the installation of a mailbox outside the main entrance and by improperly polling employees’ support during mandatory meetings. Therefore, a new election will be held in accordance with the terms of this Notice of Second Election. All eligible voters should understand the National Labor Relations Act, as amended, gives them the right to cast their ballots as they see fit and protects them in the exercise of this right, free from interference by any of the parties.

The original union election at the Bessemer warehouse was conducted in February and March of 2021, and votes were counted in early April. The final count wasn’t particularly close, with 738 votes in favor of unionizing and 1,798 votes against; a further 505 disputed ballots would not have affected the outcome one way or the other. 

Amazon staunchly opposed the unionization of the Bessemer warehouse, and a successful unionization among its workers could encourage other Amazon employees to unionize. The Amazon Labor Union, an organization independent of existing unions like the RWDSU, is currently seeking to unionize Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse in New York City.

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