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Supply Chain News: Update - Amazon Workers in Alabama begin Voting to Form Union

 


Lengthy Mail In Voting Period thought to Give Advantage to Union

Feb. 9, 2021
SCDigest Editorial Staff

This is an update to a story SCDigest ran last week on the vote to form a union at an Amazon fulfillment center in Alabama. The original story is further down the page.

 

After losing an appeal to delay the start of voting by workers at the FC in Bessemer, Alabama (near Birmingham), mail-in voting has begun, with the possibility that the FC becomes the first US Amazon facility to organize. The Bessember FC is not yet a year old.

 

The vote will take a long seven weeks to complete, with 5800 ballots being sent out to the union-eligible workers starting on Feb. 8. Voting will continue until March 29. The elongated mail-in period was ordered by National Labor Relations Board due to COVID-19 concerns.

 

Most experts believe this lengthy process gives an advantage to organizers versus the usual single day in-person voting for most union elections.

 

Workers, including seasonal workers, will be voting if they want to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

 

Over the weekend, dozens gathered in the rain near the FC to express their support for the union effort.

 

Organizers have said forming a union would allow workers to collectively bargain over safety standards, training, breaks, pay and other benefits. Detailed monitoring of the productivity of FC workers and what some say are grueling standards are also major issues at the Bessemer FC and many others across the Amazon network, even though such tracking has been common across distriibution centers in the US for decades.

 

Still, workers at Amazon complain that the Amazon Time Off Task (TOT) system tracks every second workers aren't picking, packing, and stowing to meet quotas.

 

Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty says that "Amazon already offers what unions are requesting for employees: industry-leading pay, comprehensive benefits from the first day on the job, opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern, and inclusive work environment."

 

Amazon also notes it has a $15 per hour minimum pay policy.

 

Even if workers vote to unionize, it could take years of bargaining to reach a first contract between Amazon and the union.

 

 

Orginal Story (Jan. 27, 2021):

 

Amazon Faces Toughest US Union Battle Yet

 

Amazon has fought off various mostly low-level attempts at organizing workers at its US fulfillment centers over many year, but now may be facing its toughest battle of all, as some 6000 FC workers prepare to vote up or down to unionization.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

Still, workers at Amazon complain that the Amazon Time Off Task (TOT) system tracks every second workers aren't picking, packing, and stowing to meet quotas.


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Workers at an Amazon FC in Bessemer, Alabama will likely vote in February and through most of March on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. If successful, it would be the first US Amazon FC to organize – and possibly open the gates for many others to follow suit.

After more than 2,000 workers signed cards indicating their interest in an election on whether to unionize, the National Labor Relations Board determined there was "sufficient" interest to call for a vote. The NLRB then set the election by mail, due to coronavirus concerns, to begin Feb. 8 and continue all the way through March 29.

The New York Times reported some workers at the FC reached out to the Retail union due to concerns about how Amazon tracked their productivity – though of course productivity is already tracked in similar ways at thousands of distribution centers across the US.

Perhaps surprisingly, this will be first election on unionization for Amazon in the United States since a small number of technicians at a FC in Delaware voted against unionizing in 2014.

The New York Times piece says the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many warehouse workers feeling Amazon and other companies were not doing enough to protect them from the virus, or paying high enough wages given the risks, has changed the way many workers think about unions.

"The pandemic changed the way many people feel about their employers," says Stuart Appelbaum, the retail union's president. "Many workers see the benefit of having a collective voice."

There are other dynamics that may lead to a Yes vote for unionization. For example, starting Oct. 20, unionized workers from a nearby poultry processing factory have been standing outside the Amazon gates every day urging workers driving in to join a union.

Amazon, of course, sees things differently. It has started efforts to counter organizing efforts by communicating to workers that a union would force employees to pay expensive union dues without any guarantee of higher wages or more generous benefits.


(See More Below)

CATEGORY SPONSOR: SOFTEON

 

 

Heather Knox, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement that the company did not believe that the union "represents the majority of our employees' views." She added, "Our employees choose to work at Amazon because we offer some of the best jobs available everywhere we hire, and we encourage anyone to compare our total compensation package, health benefits and workplace environment to any other company with similar jobs."

Amazon has also set up an anti-union website - DoItWithoutDues.com — discouraging workers from joining the union and paying dues.

Now Amazon is also fighting the NLRB's decision to use a mail-in ballet over a period of many weeks instead of the traditional in-person election, usually conducted in just one or two days.

In an appeal filed late last week to the reverse the decision, Amazon argued that the NLRB's pandemic-voting policy is flawed, in part because it fails to define what a COVID-19 "outbreak" actually is.

The NLRB has not ruled on the Amazon appeal.

A number of Amazon FCs in Europe are already unionized.


Whar are your thoughts this vote to unionize at Amazon? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


 
  Aazmon

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