The number of Amazon votes shows an effort to unionize Alabama
Amazon took the path of overcoming the effort to unionize workers at the warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, with 49 percent of the vote counted in a vote that the U.S. labor movement is following closely.
Union leaders immediately filed an appeal against allegations that Amazon was illegally intimidating employees, meaning that it is likely that the vote will not be decided by the vote itself but by Washington regulators or officials.
As the counting stopped on Thursday evening, the “no” votes had more than a double of “yes” – 1,100 and 463. On Friday, 1,650 votes were still to be counted. The union must get 1,608 votes to win.
About 55 percent of the 5,800 employees at the Bessemer compliance center voted, the first formal vote on the workforce at the Amazon plant in the U.S.’s 26-year history.
The vote count came after months of hard campaigning; Amazon executives have struggled with politicians on social media and caused ugly exchanges about working conditions in the e-commerce giant.
In March, President Joe Biden asked Amazon to give employees a “free and fair choice” about representation.
With the end result in mind, he plans to appeal to the retail, wholesale and department store unions, calling the Amazon union’s efforts “reprehensible.”
“Our system is broken, Amazon took advantage of that,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “We will call on the labor committee to hold Amazon accountable for its horrific illegal behavior during the campaign.”
If the complaints are seen as deserving, the local National Labor Relations Committee has the power to overturn the result, giving victory to the union. Labor experts say Amazon may decide to challenge the issue before Washington regulators, a process that could take many months.
The union’s appeal will be based on the installation of a mailbox in the parking lot of the Amazon facility.
The emails obtained by the union, through a request for freedom of information, showed that the U.S. postal service put pressure on Amazon to “move quickly” before the vote. Details of the emails were first published by The Washington Post.
“There seems to be little doubt that many of Bessemer’s employees would take this into account when tracking and counting Amazon’s compliance with official votes,” said John Logan, a professor of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University.
In a statement, Amazon said the mailbox could only be accessed by the USPS, and that it is “a simple, secure and completely optional way to make it easier for employees to vote, no more and no less.”
Amazon has added more than 800,000 employees during the pandemic, and its global workforce has grown to 1.3 million as demand and revenue have risen. In the U.S., the company is now the country’s second-largest employer behind Walmart, including an extensive network of distribution controllers who are hired through third-party contractors.
In Europe, unionized Amazon workers have gone on numerous strikes over concerns about safety and working conditions.