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Supply Chain News: For Amazon Union, It’s not Over Until It’s Over



NLRB Official Recommends New Election on Unionization be Ordered

Aug. 4, 2021
SCDigest Editorial Staff

In an enormously followed action, several thousand workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama decisively voted not to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, as announced by the National Labor Relations Board in early April.

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Amazon disputes that account, and says that it asked the Postal Service to install the collection box as a convenience to employees and that only the Postal Service had access to ballots.

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Labor rights groups had thought there was a real chance the workers would vote to organized, making the Bessemer the first Amazon facility in the US to form a union, perhaps inspiring a raft of other FCs to start union drives.

Instead, workers said No to the union by a wide margin, with 71% against versus 29% for the union. Interviews with workers afterward indicated they liked their wages and benefits at Amazon, and could work with the company on issues related to workplace conditions without needing a union in between.

The union appealed to the NLRB, alleging a number of unfair tactics by Amazon, and called for the NLRB to order a new election. The union alleged Amazon's conduct throughout the process prevented "a free and un-coerced exercise of choice by the employees."

Now after hearing testimony in May on the issues, a National Labor Relations Board official has in fact recommended nullifying the results of the vote. The findings, communicated in a press release by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, will be reviewed by a regional NLRB director in charge of the case, who could make a final decision to order a new election in a matter of just a few weeks.

According to news sources, the hearing officer said the evidence showed Amazon "interfered with the laboratory conditions necessary to conduct a fair election."

Based on earlier guidance from the NLRB on the appeal process, Amazon and the union will have a chance to file exceptions. The NLRB's regional director will then issue a decision on the matter.

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Responding to the news, an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement that: "Our employees had a chance to be heard during a noisy time when all types of voices were weighing into the national debate, and at the end of the day, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of a direct connection with their managers and the company. Their voice should be heard above all else, and we plan to appeal to ensure that happens."

During the hearings on the union appeal, some employees described meetings in which Amazon representatives said FC workers could see reduced pay and benefits if a union was adopted.

“They said, ‘everything is on the table,’” Emmit Ashford, a worker at the Bessemer FC, testified.

However, it’s not clear that even if true that Amazon’s approach was not allowed by labor law. It is illegal, however, to warn that a facility might closed if it is unionized.

Another key issue in the process was a mailbox near the facility, which Amazon had asked the local US Postal Service to install. It is important because the election was by mail in ballot over several week, due to COVID-19 concerns, versus the usual in-person voting.

At the May hearing, one worker testified that Amazon security guards had access to the mailbox submission and that on at least one occasion, he witnessed the guards use keys to open the mailbox.

Amazon disputes that account, and says that it asked the Postal Service to install the collection box as a convenience to employees and that only the Postal Service had access to ballots.

Regardless of what decision the NLRB regional director makes, either side can request a review of the regional director’s decision to the full labor board in Washington, DC, a process which might take many months.

What do you think of the recommendation of the NLRB  official on redoing the election? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.




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