A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) agent recommended that workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, hold new elections because Amazon violated U.S. labor laws, the New York Times reported. This is still only a preliminary decision, but gives hope that workers can still join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union (RWDSU).
In April, workers at the distribution center voted against unionization by a margin of more than two to one. After the vote, however, the RWDSU alleged that Amazon won because it “interfered” with the rights of its employees “to vote in free and fair elections; a right protected by section 7 of the national labor relations law. “
The RWDSU filed a total of 23 objections, including a complaint that Amazon had set up a ballot box in an employee parking lot “without permission” from the NLRB regional director. He noted that the box was placed in plain view of Amazon’s security cameras, creating “an impression of surveillance.”
The NLRB officer sided with the union, saying Amazon violated US labor laws. “Throughout the NLRB hearing, we heard compelling evidence of how Amazon attempted to illegally interfere with and intimidate workers as they sought to exercise their right to form a union,” Union president Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement. “We support the hearing officer’s recommendation that the NLRB overturn the election results and hold a new election.”
Amazon, however, said it would challenge the decision and take action to ensure the initial vote takes place. “Our employees were fortunate enough to be heard during a noisy time when all kinds of voices weighed in the national debate, and in the end, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of a direct link with their managers,” said an Amazon spokesperson. “Their voice needs to be heard first and foremost, and we plan to appeal to make that happen.”
The ruling does not yet have legal force until a full ruling is issued by the NLRB’s Acting Regional Director, which could take up to a month. During this time, the parties may file exceptions.
Since the Bessemer vote, the Amazon situation has caught the attention of the Teamsters union, which has created a special division to focus on organizing Amazon delivery drivers. Amazon has been criticized for the working conditions of drivers and warehouse workers, as well as for its anti-union efforts which have been exposed in a New York Times report earlier this year.
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