Amazon challenged hundreds of ballots in a vote to form a union in one of its warehouses in Alabama in a union organizing campaign seen as one of the most important labor struggles in recent American history.
The National Labor Relations Board on Thursday began opening the ballots and beginning counting the votes in elections in Bessemer, Alabama.
Some 3,215 votes were cast in the election out of more than 5,800 eligible employees. The election will determine whether Bessemer workers will form the first union in an Amazon warehouse in the United States.
According to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, hundreds of ballots were contested, mostly by Amazon.
“There are hundreds of disputed ballots left, mainly by the employer, which will need to be processed after the public count. As the ballot envelopes are opened and the ballots are counted, it is possible that more issues will impact the final results, ”said RWDSU.
The organizing drive has generated enormous political interest, and a list of left-wing politicians – and even some Republicans – have come out in favor of it or have visited the state. The American labor movement sees it as an argument for hoping to expand its power, especially in areas of the economy – such as online sales – which are increasingly dominant.
Ballots can be contested based on several factors, such as the eligibility of the voter for job classification or dates of employment. The NLRB will likely hold a later hearing on the validity of the contested ballots, after the count of the uncontested ballots, if the number of contested ballots could affect the outcome of the election.
The organizing drive in Bessemer came from 51-year-old warehouse worker Darryl Richardson, who contacted RWDSU in June last year with interest in starting to organize a union in the warehouse. A former union member in his old job in the auto industry, Richardson’s enthusiasm for starting the job months earlier quickly wore off after seeing co-workers facing layoffs due to productivity quotas and having saw how far wages were behind the wages he received in the auto industry.
Richardson and other workers managed to obtain more than 3,000 union authorization cards, enough for the NLRB to determine that the union had enough support to hold an election. The union initially proposed a 1,500 worker bargaining unit, which was later expanded to around 5,800 workers at Amazon’s request.
Ballots for the union election were mailed to eligible workers on February 8 and workers had until March 29 to mail the completed ballots to the NLRB.
Depending on the outcome of the vote, other legal challenges or objections could further delay the official results. The election counting process took as long as it took due to the contested voting process and the large size of the eligible bargaining unit.