A National Labor Relations Board hearing officer has recommended that the board reject a union election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.
The union announced the recommendation on Monday, and Amazon quickly announced it was taking steps to ensure the original election result stands.
The Hearing Officer’s recommendation for a new election will be examined by the agency’s incumbent regional director, who will make a decision on the case in the coming weeks. If the regional director decides against Amazon, the company can appeal to the Washington employment office.
The union campaign at the camp, which included more than 5,000 eligible workers, was the highest profile domestic organizing effort to date at Amazon, which has a history of aggressive deterrence of worker activism.
The challenge from the union, the retail, wholesale and department store union, accused Amazon of engaging in unfair labor practices to discourage workers from union formation.
“During the NLRB hearing, we heard compelling evidence of Amazon trying to illegally disturb and intimidate workers as they tried to exercise their right to unionize,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the union’s president, in a statement. “We support the hearing officer’s recommendation that the NLRB put the election results aside and conduct a new election.”
The union first submitted documents for the election in November and the vote took place by mail between early February and late March.
During the campaign, the union complained that the company intimidated and threatened workers.
Amazon denied the allegations and continues to do so.
“Our employees had the chance to be heard at a noisy time when all kinds of voices were pouring into the national debate, and at the end of the day they overwhelmingly voted in favor of a direct connection with their managers,” an Amazon The spokeswoman said in a statement on Monday. “Your voice should be heard above all, and we plan to appeal for it.”
Wilma B. Liebman, chairman of President Barack Obama’s working committee, said regional directors typically followed the advice of the hearing officers in such cases.
About a week after the Working Committee announced the results in April, the union formally objected to the holding of the elections and asked the board to overturn them. An official from the panel held hearings over three weeks during which both sides called and questioned witnesses.
The unions’ objection alleged that Amazon consultants and employee relations managers created an atmosphere of fear by identifying and removing workers from mandatory anti-union gatherings when interviewing company officials, and by telling employees they were risking the loss of Salary, benefits, or even their job if a union is formed.
The union also alleged that Amazon consultants and managers illegally asked workers how they wanted to vote and that Amazon fired a union supporter for distributing union cards. The company is said to have taken several measures – such as increasing wages and giving away goods – to ease pressure on a union. It is illegal to take such action once a union campaign is underway.
The unions’ objection was heavily focused on a collection box on site, which Amazon had repeatedly urged the US Post to install shortly before the start of the vote. The union said the box was not approved by the labor exchange. Amazon has said that it pushed for the box to make it easier for employees to vote and that it doesn’t have access to the ballot papers that workers put in it.
The union argued that the presence of the collection box gave workers the impression that Amazon was monitoring who and possibly even how they were voting.
It is not clear whether the union would improve its performance if the elections were repeated. Labor law allows companies to hold mandatory anti-union meetings on a regular basis, and Retail Workers President Mr. Appelbaum said the high turnover in the warehouse was a significant drag on the union campaign.