Amazon reportedly pushed USPS to install a mailbox outside its Alabama warehouse, a move the union could use to challenge the outcome of the vote

Grace Kay
·3 min read
  • Amazon pushed USPS to install mailbox at a warehouse, according to emails obtained by a union.

  • The mailbox could be seen as a tactic to deter workers from voting to unionize.

  • The union could argue to overturn a negative vote result by citing the emails.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Amazon pushed the US Postal Service to install a mailbox outside its Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse, according to emails obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by a union and first reported by The Washington Post.

Over the past seven weeks, employees have been voting whether to form the first Amazon union in the US. The emails could have an influence on the union vote at the warehouse after they were obtained by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), The Post reported.

The group is working to represent nearly 6,000 Amazon employees at the Alabama site in a historic union battle that could set a precedent for other companies.

More than 3,000 workers cast ballots, according to the union, and hundreds have been challenged, mostly by Amazon. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) began its public count of the votes on Thursday. After the first day of counting, the "no" votes against were leading by almost 2-1 with about 1,000 voting against the union and 400 voting in favor of it.

The union has issued complaints about the mailbox in the past, as the mailbox was installed in February, not long before the start of the mail-in ballot process at the warehouse.

When the mailbox was set up, Amazon blasted workers with emails and texts telling them to "vote no" and put their ballots in the on-site mailbox, Vice's Motherboard reported.

At the time, the union said the mailbox could make it seem as if Amazon itself would directly see the ballots - a move that could deter employees from voting.

Before the installation of the mailbox, the NLRB rejected the company's request for employees to vote in person at the warehouse. Instead, the organization opted to allow workers to vote via mail only.

The Washington Post reported that if the union lost the vote, the emails - which showed Amazon told USPS to get the mailbox up as soon as possible - could be used to challenge the result of the vote, as it could be seen as a tactic to prevent workers from voting.

"We said from the beginning that we wanted all employees to vote and proposed many different options to try and make it easy," an Amazon spokesperson told Insider. "The RWDSU fought those at every turn and pushed for a mail-only election, which the NLRB's own data showed would reduce turnout. This mailbox - which only the USPS had access to - was a simple, secure, and completely optional way to make it easy for employees to vote, no more and no less."

"The box that was installed - a Centralized Box Unit (CBU) with a collection compartment - was suggested by the Postal Service as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point," a USPS spokesperson told Insider.

The mailbox will likely become increasingly controversial as votes continue to get tallied — especially if they continue to swing in Amazon's favor.

"It's fairly common for there to be unfair labor practice charges at the end of a contentious election like this," John Logan, a labor and employment professor at San Francisco State University who specializes in tactics companies use to defeat union drives, previously told Insider. He added that it's "fairly difficult" to predict how the NLRB will ultimately rule on those charges.

RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum told The Washington Post that the emails showed Amazon felt it was "above the law."

"They did this because it provided a clear ability to intimidate workers," Appelbaum said.

Amazon has historically acted against unionization at its warehouses, employing tactics such as posting anti-union signs at its warehouses and holding meetings designed to convince workers to vote against the union.

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