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Supply Chain News: Why Alabama Amazon Workers Said No to the Union


Union Makes Challenge to NLRB, Alleging Many Amazon Violations of Labor Rule

April 20, 2021
SCDigest Editorial Staff

The fallout and action from the defeat of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) in its attempt to organize workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, AL two weeks ago continues on. (See

Why did those workers overwhelmingly vote down the union, by a decisive 71% No to just 29% Yes, in an election many thought had a real chance to create the first unionized facility in Amazon’s huge US network?

Supply Chain Digest Says...

In the worst case for the company, a NLRB regional director could decide that Amazon’s conduct was so bad that the results of the election should be thrown out.

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The New York Times spoke with a number of workers at the Bessemer FC to try and answer that question.

In summary, "For some workers at the warehouse, …the minimum wage of $15 an hour is more than they made in previous jobs and provided a powerful incentive to side with the company. Amazon’s health insurance, which kicks in on the first day of employment, also encouraged loyalty, workers said,” according to the Times’ article.

Other workers that the Time’s interviewed that they did not trust unions or were supportive of Amazon’s message that the workers could change the company from within without needing a union. The Times said several of the workers they spoke with echoed the arguments that Amazon had made in mandatory meetings, where it stressed its pay, raised doubts about what a union could guarantee and said benefits could be reduced if workers unionized.

One female worker told the Times that when a union representative called said her, he couldn’t answer a pointed question about what the union could promise to deliver.

A local church pastor that has a number of FC worker as members told the Times that “workers were too scared to push for more and risk what they have” now at Amazon.

Meanwhile, the union is contesting the vote in Alabama, alleging that Amazon repeatedly engaged in illegal conduct that prevented a “free and fair” vote.

The union took that challenge to the National Labor Relations Board last week, identifying 23 objections relative to Amazon’s action during the long campaign, including allegations of employee intimidation and manipulation. The RWDSU said this week that it has requested a hearing before the NLRB to detail its objections.

“The objections constitute conduct which prevented a free and un-coerced exercise of choice by the employees, undermining the board’s efforts to provide ‘a laboratory in which an experiment may be conducted, under conditions as nearly as ideal as possible, to determine the uninhibited desires of the employees,’” the RWDSU said in a statement Monday.

(See More Below)



The union’s allegations include that Amazon:

• Interrogated and fired a pro-union employee for passing out union authorization cards in non-work areas, which is a protected right under federal labor law

Removed employees who asked question about the union from mandatory meetings

Disciplined an “outspoken supporter of the union” after he challenged Amazon in some of the mandatory meetings.

Sent multiple messages to workers threatening widespread layoffs and even possibly closing the facility if they voted for the union.

Told workers that voting for the union could lead to a loss of benefits and potentially their pay rate, particularly if the union decides to go on strike

These actions had a “chilling effect on support for the union,” the RWDSU says.

The union also challenges the placement of a United States Post Office mailbox for mail-in ballots outside the fulfillment center in the weeks before the election, leading some workers to believe Amazon was looking at the ballots or even counting the votes itself.

Amazon spokesperson Heather Knox told CNBC in a statement that: “The fact is that less than 16% of employees at BHM1 voted to join a union. Rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda. We look forward to the next steps in the legal process.”

The objections are likely to lead to a long legal process for Amazon to get the vote certified. In the worst case for the company, a NLRB regional director could decide that Amazon’s conduct was so bad that the results of the election should be thrown out

What is your take on why Amazon workerers voted down the union? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.




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