It remains an uphill climb, but new dates have been set for a rerun vote for union representation at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Jan. 11 announced that ballots will be mailed Feb. 4 and counted March 28.
Last year, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) lost in an election “skewed by massive company labor law-breaking,” as one pro-worker pundit noted. The campaign, vote and aftermath gained nationwide attention; President Biden vocally supported the organizing drive.
RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said the recent NLRB notice doesn’t go far enough to prevent illegal tactics by the company similar to the ones they used in 2021. According to the Press Associates union news service, “In the last election, the RWDSU lost after Amazon intimidated workers and convinced the U.S. Postal Service to put a big gray mail collection box under an Amazon-emblazoned tent in the company’s parking lot right outside the main entrance to the warehouse, which is the size of several football fields. After Amazon forced enlargement of the electorate, a common employer tactic, some 1,600 workers were eligible to vote.”
The board’s notice said the mailbox “created the appearance of irregularity” in the voting. So did Amazon’s illegal polling of workers’ views during “mandatory” captive-audience meetings. Both “tainted the outcome” and made a fair election impossible, Appelbaum said.
He added, “We are deeply concerned the decision fails to adequately prevent Amazon from continuing its objectionable behavior in a new election. We proposed to the NLRB a number of remedies that could have made the process fairer to workers” but they weren’t included in the rerun election notice.
Press Associates also reported that, since the first vote, the NLRB ordered Amazon to post a notice at all of its warehouses and other facilities nationwide admitting it broke labor laws through various anti-union tactics (banning conversations in break rooms, for example) and promising not to do so again.
Workers who were employed by Amazon during first vote, but no longer work there, are not eligible to vote this time. Because of the company’s high turnover, union organizers have had to essentially start from the beginning.
The NLRB’s Birmingham regional office (which covers Bessemer) was scheduled to mail ballots to all workers on the warehouse payroll on Jan. 8, or to those who toiled there an average of at least four hours a week for the 13 weeks before that date.
Appelbaum concluded, “Workers’ voices can and must be heard fairly, unencumbered by Amazon’s limitless power to control what must be a fair and free election, and we will continue to hold them accountable for their actions.”