The National Labor Relations Board said Thursday that union supporters narrowly outperformed opponents in a union election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama. But the count was much closer to a vote in the same warehouse last year, when workers rejected the union by more than a 2-to-1 ratio.
There are 993 no votes against 875 yes votes in the union, but more than 400 challenging ballots are enough to influence the possible outcome. The challenges will be addressed at a Labor Board hearing next week.
Overall, out of more than 6,100 eligible employees, about 2,300 ballots were cast in the election in Bessemer, Ala.
The Labor Board made the revote mandatory, conducted by mail from the beginning of February to the end of March, concluding that Amazon had violated the so-called laboratory conditions that were supposed to exist during the union election.
“Regardless of the final results, the workers here have shown what is possible,” said Stuart Applebam, president of the retail, wholesale and department store union, which wanted to organize the workers. “They helped stir up a movement.”
A landmark win for unionization on Amazon
Workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island have delivered one of the biggest victories for organized labor in a generation.
Speaking in a video conference with reporters after the vote count, Mr Appelbaum said Bessemer’s organization had helped promote the union at 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 counting votes in another high-profile election at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island. At the end of the first day’s count on Thursday, 57 percent of the ballots voted in favor of representing the Amazon Labor Union, while 43 percent opposed it. The NLRB said the count should end on Friday.
Workers who support the union in Bessema have expressed frustration with the goal of lower wages, inadequate breaks and overly aggressive productivity. Amazon says its pay – less than $ 16 per hour for full-time, entry-level employees – is competitive in the region. It also hints at a benefit package that says they are attractive with full healthcare benefits for full-time employees as well as joining the company. The company said its performance goals reflect safety considerations and reflect the experience of individual employees.
A number of union-supporting employees said colleagues 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 organizational effort both last year and this year, said in an interview this month. “More employees are standing and talking.”
The union has pointed out key differences in more recent election procedures. Last year, the union reduced privately organized efforts due to Covid-19 safety concerns, but this time its organizers met with staff at home. Other unions sent organizers to Alabama to help with the effort.
Workers also seemed more active in organizing within the plant. They wore union T-shirts to work twice a week to show support, and a team with more than 100 signatures submitted a petition to managers alleging inadequate breaks and break room equipment.
Still, Amazon retained the benefits, which did not include the high rate of employee turnover, which made it difficult for organizers to keep pace as disgruntled employees quit their jobs.
Before the mail ballot came out in early February, the company was seen spending generously on workers’ union support, hiring consultants, and trying to discourage workers from holding anti-union meetings with more than 20 workers each day. In a Labor Department filing released Thursday, Amazon revealed that they spent more than 4 million on labor consultants last year. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
Union supporters have accused Amazon of excluding them from the meeting for silent criticism and pushback, but Amazon has denied the allegations.
The count announced on Thursday was consistent with a broader trend towards re-election, with more than half of the unions losing since 2010.