Amazon Union Vote in Alabama Favors Opponents for Now

The National Labor Relations Board said Thursday that union supporters are narrowly behind opponents in the union election at Amazon Warehouse in Alabama. But the count was much closer than the vote in the same warehouse last year, when workers rejected the union by more than a 2-to-1 ratio.

The union had 993 votes against 875, but more than 400 challenged ballots are likely enough to affect the outcome. The challenges will be addressed at a Labor Board hearing in the coming weeks.

In all, out of more than 6,100 eligible employees, about 2,300 ballots were cast in the election in Bessemer, Ala.

After Amazon concluded that it had violated so-called laboratory conditions prevailing during the union election, the Labor Board mandated a revote, which was conducted by mail from the beginning of February to the end of March.

“Regardless of the final outcome, the workers here have shown what is possible,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the retail, wholesale and department store union, who called for the workers to unite. “They have helped ignite the movement.”

Speaking in a video conference with reporters after the vote count, Shri. Applebaum said planning in Bessemer helped boost the union campaign in other companies, such as REI and Starbucks, and in other parts of the country.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

The Labor Board is also counting votes in another high-profile election at the Amazon Warehouse on Staten Island. At the end of the first day of counting on Thursday, 57 percent of the ballots and 43 percent of the people voted in favor of the Amazon Labor Union. The NLRB said the count should be completed by Friday.

Workers supporting the union in Bessemer expressed frustration over low wages, inadequate breaks and overly aggressive productivity targets. Amazon says its pay – below $ 16 per hour for full-time, entry-level workers – is competitive for the area. He also pointed to a benefit package that he says is attractive, including full healthcare benefits as full-time employees join the company. The company said its performance targets reflect safety considerations and the experience of individual employees.

Some union supporters said co-workers were generally less afraid to question management or show their union support this year than in last year’s election. “People are asking more questions,” Jennifer Bates, an employee who helped lead the planning effort both last year and this year, said in an interview earlier this month. “More employees are standing and speaking.”

The union also cited key differences in its approach to the recent election. Last year, the union reduced its efforts to organize individually due to Covid-19 safety concerns, but this time its organizers visited workers at home. Other unions sent organizers to Alabama to help with the effort.

Workers also appeared more active in organizing within the plant. They wore union T-shirts to work twice a week to show support, and one group delivered a petition to managers with more than 100 signatures complaining of inadequate breaks and break room equipment.

However, Amazon retained the advantage, at least because of its high employee turnover rate, which made it difficult for organizers to sustain momentum as disgruntled workers quit their jobs.

The company reportedly spent generously on its efforts to support workers’ unions, hire consultants, and hold more than 20 anti-union meetings a day with employees before the mail ballots came out in early February. In a Labor Department filing published Thursday, Amazon revealed that it spent more than $ 4 million on labor consultants last year. How much he has spent on consultants this year remains to be seen.

Union supporters accused Amazon of criticizing and pushback to exclude them from the meeting, but Amazon denied the allegations.

The numbers announced on Thursday were in line with the broader trend in re-election, with more than half of the unions losing since 2010.

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