Amazon Fails to Delay Union Vote at Alabama Warehouse

On February 8, employees at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama began voting in a union election. Amazon had asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to delay this vote, but the NLRB rejected their motion. As an alternative, Amazon sought to require an in-person vote. The NLRB rejected this motion as well, concerned about the impact to employee health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, warehouse employees were allowed to vote remotely this week on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

Amazon defended its actions by arguing that fewer employees would vote if the election were not delayed or held in person. It noted that the NLRB has admitted that employee participation in its own elections is 20 to 30 percent lower when mail ballots are used, compared to in-person voting. Meanwhile, the union celebrated the NLRB decision by declaring that Amazon workers now can cast their votes free from intimidation by their employer.

This dispute marked just the latest episode in Amazon efforts to disrupt or disfavor unionization among warehouse employees. Leaked records from an internal meeting last year showed that the corporate giant had sought to smear the reputation of an employee organizer at a warehouse. More recently, Amazon posted two job listings for so-called “intelligence analyst” roles that would involve monitoring labor organizing threats. (However, Amazon removed those listings once the media called attention to them.) Amazon may be especially concerned about unionization because it has encountered occasional challenges from workers at unionized facilities in Europe. For example, an alleged failure to implement adequate health and safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a strike last summer at a fulfillment center in Germany.

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