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Friday, August 13, 2021

Labor Board Orders New Amazon Union Vote

Hearing Officer Finds Company Rigged Alabama Contest with Help from Postal Service


Amazon cheated, regulators conclude.

In April, after the vote to unionize Amazon’s Bessemer Alabama fulfillment center landed in Jeff Bezos’ favor, we told you that the richest man on the planet and off the planet cheated workers out of a fair election.

This week, the federal hearing officer who examined the way that pivotal union election was conducted determined that Amazon did, in fact, violate labor law; a new election is needed. 

That’s because in addition to its various acts of worker intimidation and coercion, Amazon installed a dubious dropbox on company property to collect votes that workers said they were afraid to use. The National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] said the dropbox was prohibited. The dropbox was installed with the connivance of the U.S. Postal Service and corrupt Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump-era holdover.

“Amazon cheated, they got caught, and they are being held accountable,” Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement released Monday night. 

The RWDSU had amassed more than 2,000 union cards from Amazon employees at the Bessemer warehouse ahead of the election. But workers wound up losing the election 1,798 to 738 when the NLRB tallied the votes on April 9. More than 500 votes were contested and not included in the final tally. 

Pro-union worker Linda Burns was prophetic at the timebwhen she said that she was not discouraged by the vote outcome and that, “This is the beginning.”

“Bezos,” she said, “you misled a lot of our people. We’re going to fight for our rights. As human beings, not robots.”

Illegal Interference

The U.S. Postal Service installed this dropbox at the Alabama Amazon warehouse for the union vote. (A More Perfect Union)

Appelbaum says the subsequent NLRB hearing yielded “compelling evidence [about] how Amazon tried to illegally interfere with and intimidate workers as they sought to exercise their right to form a union.”

“As President Biden reminded us earlier this year, the question of whether or not to have a union is supposed to be the workers’ decision and not the employer’s. Amazon’s behavior throughout the election process was despicable,” Appelbaum said.

Earlier this year, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters resolved to organize Amazon workers coast to coast. Randy Korgan, IBT national director for Amazon, told DCReport this week’s NLRB recommendation in the Bessemer election “is just further evidence of how Amazon, with its exploitative business model and anti-union track record, continues to violate workers’ rights and drive down industry standards.”

“The Teamsters stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Bessemer who seek representation with RWDSU, and with any workers who recognize the value of their work and join together to build collective power,” he said.

Company to Resist

Amazon already announced its plans to try and stop any new election. 

“Our employees had a chance to be heard during a noisy time when all types of voices were weighing into the national debate,” the company said in a statement. “At the end of the day, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of a direct connection with their managers and the company. Their voice should be heard above all else, and we plan to appeal to ensure that happens.” 

According to Bloomberg, “Amazon can be expected to wage as fierce a campaign as it did last time holding mandatory ‘information sessions’ with employees, where managers argue that a union won’t necessarily improve wages and benefits.”

“Such direct appeals likely helped the company win handily last time,” the news outlet said. Those captive audience meetings, however, are exactly the kinds of shady practices that the PRO Act, now pending in Congress, seeks to abolish in an effort to finally level the playing field between management and workers.

The next step in the NLRB process involves both Amazon and the RWDSU filing exceptions with the agency. The NLRB’s acting regional director is expected to spend the next several weeks evaluating the hearing officer’s recommendations before deciding on whether to order a new election.

Bezos recently launched himself to the edge of space on Blue Origin. Critics called that frivolous.

Joe Maniscalco is a journalist and freelance writer based in New York City. His work has appeared in a variety of news outlets ranging from the to He's spent the last decade covering workplace justice issues, the American Labor Movement and steadfastly avoiding well-paid corporate media gigs.