Peter Endig | AFP | Getty Images
Amazon on Friday lost its urge to postpone a closely watched union vote in a sprawling warehouse in Alabama, allowing 6,000 workers to decide on the company’s first major union effort since 2014.
The National Labor Relations Board’s decision included an appeal by Amazon last month to block a mail-in vote by workers at the Bessemer, Alabama warehouse on joining the retail, wholesale and department store union.
The company had asked the NLRB to review aspects of their previous decision and pressed for a personal choice. Deficiencies in the agency’s definition of a coronavirus outbreak were cited.
In its most recent decision, the NLRB said Amazon’s appeal “did not raise any material issues warranting review”.
“The employer’s request to keep the upcoming review of the elections is also rejected as contentious,” said the board.
With the NLRB rejecting Amazon’s appeal, Amazon employees in the warehouse can vote by mail from Monday. Ballot papers must be received by the NLRB regional office by March 29th. The counting starts the next day.
The last major union effort within Amazon came in 2014 when repair technicians at a Delaware warehouse did not get enough votes to join a union. Since then, however, protests related to Prime Day, the coronavirus pandemic and other events have laid the foundation for new organizational efforts among sections of the workforce across the country.
The union effort in Alabama has proven to be a protracted labor dispute on Amazon. The company hired the same law firm that it helped negotiate during the union action in Delaware.
Amazon also has a website publicizing its position on the Alabama camp union. In this way, workers are encouraged to “do without fees”. Reference is made to the cost of membership when joining a union.
In the past few weeks the company has intensified communication with workers in the BHM1 Bessemer warehouse via the union. During this time, Amazon held mandatory meetings, distributed flyers throughout the facility, and sent text messages.
Union President Stuart Applebaum heralded the NLRB’s decision as a victory in the Amazon workers’ struggle for the organization and criticized the company’s urge to hold a personal election as a threat to the health and safety of workers amid the pandemic.
“Once again, Amazon workers have won another battle to win a union vote,” Applebaum said in a statement. “Today’s decision shows that it has been a long time since Amazon respected its own employees and allowed them to cast their votes without intimidation or interference.”
Amazon spokeswoman Heather Knox told CNBC in a statement that the company stood by its personal choice efforts and would continue to insist on measures for a fair election in which the majority of its employees can participate. In his appeal to the NLRB, Amazon raised concerns that a mail-in vote could lead to depressed voter turnout and increase the risk of fraud.
“Our goal is to get as many of our employees as possible to vote. We are disappointed with the NLRB’s decision not to provide the fairest and most effective format for maximum employee participation,” said Knox.