A labor union challenges its election loss at AmazonWarehouse has cleared this first significant hurdle. A preliminary ruling that the retailer had violated labor law in the closely-watched union campaign in Alabama this year found warehouse to have satisfied all requirements.
An hearing officer at the National Labor Relations Board, (NLRB). issued a reportWorkers were encouraged to vote in a new election this week after Amazon poisoned the April-ended mail-in election. Amazon’s claim of a clear rejection by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, (RWDSU), was quashed by this finding.
According to the NLRB, Amazon obstructed the fairness of elections by two specific actions. The company distributed “vote no” paraphernalia to workers in front of supervisors, which may have been coercive, and pressured the U.S. Postal Service was required to put a mailbox at this warehouse in order to facilitate the election.
Elections took place by mail ballots. However, the NLRB was clear that no drop boxes were allowed onsite. Amazon’s insistence on placing a mailbox at work “usurped the [board]’s exclusive role in administering Union elections,” the hearing officer, Kerstin Meyers, wrote.
The mailbox alone “destroyed the laboratory conditions and justifies a second election,” she concluded.
Meyers’ finding does not guarantee another election will be held. The recommendation of Meyers will be sent to a regional director in the NLRB. After that to the Washington-based five member board which ultimately resolves these disputes through appeal.
Two of the Presidents were recently confirmed by Senate Joe Biden’s picks for that board, assuring that DemocratsIt will be in control by September. In contentious cases, a Democratic majority will be more likely to support unions than a Republican majority.
Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU’s president, said the union supported Meyers’ findings.
“Amazon’s behavior throughout the election process was despicable,” Appelbaum said in a statement. “Amazon cheated, they got caught, and now they are being held accountable.”
Amazon supported its decision to place a mailbox onsite, noting that the U.S. did it. It was the U.S. Postal Service who placed it there. But Meyers wasn’t buying that argument, calling it “mere scapegoating.” She noted that Amazon had procured its own mailbox in case the Postal Service did not decide to place one there.
“Amazon’s behavior throughout the election process was despicable.”
What’s more, Meyers found that the Postal Service, an independent federal agency, went to unusual lengths to help Amazon, a major client, in what turned out to be a violation of labor law: “In an effort to placate [Amazon], the USPS officials at the highest levels jumped through hoops” to get the company a mailbox as quickly as possible.
When asked, a spokesperson for the Postal Service did not respond immediately.
Most of the union’s objections to Amazon’s conduct were thrown out.
Amazon announced in a statement its intention to appeal any ruling that would allow the election to go back.
“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,” a spokesperson said in an email. “Their voice should be heard above all else.”
The vote at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, was the most closely watched union election in years. Amazon deals with unions in Europe but has so far remained union-free in the U.S. Had the RWDSU won the election, it would have represented a bargaining unit of roughly 6,000 workers and gained the first toehold for labor inside Amazon’s U.S. workforce.
Amazon offered an aggressive anti-union campaignThese actions were intended to undermine support for unionization. The workers voted 1-798 to 738 in favor of unionization when the ballots went into effect. Many ballots were invalidated and not counted. Those who voted for the union may have been among those that were challenged.
It could take several months to hold the next election if the NLRB issues a directive. The RWDSU will need more organization if it wants to win. Thanks to Amazon’s sky-high turnover rateMany of the workers who voted in the second election were not there for the union campaign.