Union asks NLRB to set aside Amazon election results

Rebecca Rainey
·3 min read

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union has filed nearly two dozen objections over a recent election at an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Ala., requesting that the federal labor board set aside the results due to the company’s alleged interference.

Workers at the facility overwhelmingly voted against joining the union during a multiweek mail-in election that ended earlier this month.

The 23 objections filed last week with the National Labor Relations Board and released Monday allege that Amazon “created an atmosphere of confusion, coercion and/or fear of reprisals” which interfered with the employees' “freedom of choice” in the election.

“We demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon's behavior in corrupting this election,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum in a statement.

But the company pushed back against the unions claims, arguing that the union wasn't accepting the employees' choice to reject the union.

“The fact is that less than 16% of employees at BHM1 voted to join a union," Amazon spokesperson Heather Knox said in a statement. "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: The union cites various actions taken by the company, including: the installation of a ballot collection box, warning of layoffs if workers unionized, terminating a supporter of the union for passing out union authorization cards and hiring police officers to patrol the parking lot to watch employees and union organizers.

Such conduct, the union said, resulted in a chilling effect on employees that violated their rights under federal labor law.

The RWDSU has requested that the NLRB regional director schedule a hearing to decide if the results of the election should be tossed out because of Amazon's alleged illegal actions.

“After enduring an intensive anti-union campaign designed by Amazon to intimidate and manipulate,” the union said in a statement, “workers are seeking the chance to finally have a right to fair representation, a seat at the table and a real chance to fix the litany of issues that workers at Amazon have faced for far too long.”

The mailbox: According to emails obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the RWDSU, Amazon pressed the U.S. Postal Service to install a private mailbox at the facility just before workers were to start mailing their ballots. However, when the NLRB outlined the rules for how the election would be conducted, it said that using "equipment clearly belonging to the Employer" and monitoring the voting tent could "give the impression of surveillance or tracking" of workers' votes.

“Even though the NLRB definitively denied Amazon's request for a drop box on the warehouse property, Amazon felt it was above the law and worked with the postal service anyway to install one,” Appelbaum said. “They did this because it provided a clear ability to intimidate workers.”

But Amazon argues the effort was to ensure that every employee could easily cast their ballot.

"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," Knox said in a statement, "no more and no less."

Bezos' response: While the e-commerce giant is defending its conduct during the Bessemer election, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said last week that he believes the company needs “to do a better job for our employees,” following the union drive.

“Does your Chair take comfort in the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn't,” Bezos wrote in a letter to shareholders. “While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it's clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees — a vision for their success.”