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Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama have another chance to unionize. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Bessemer Amazon warehouse to get fresh union vote in new ruling

The U.S. National Labor Relations Board determined the online retail giant’s conduct leading up to the initial vote obstructed the election.

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On Monday, Nov. 29, a regional director for the U.S. National Labor Relations Board called for a second union election for Amazon warehouse employees at a facility in Bessemer, Alabama. 

Announced in April, the election result delivered an overwhelming defeat for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), with workers voting 1,798 to 738 against unionization. 

But this result was challenged by RWDSU officials, who insist that Amazon interfered with the election process by — among other things — installing its own mailbox to collect ballots. Amazon security guards had access to the mailbox, giving some workers the impression that it controlled the results. 

In August, an NLRB hearing officer said the company’s conduct around the previous vote had obstructed the election. 

“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along – that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace,” said RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum in a statement. 

Amazon and the RWDSU have already restarted their campaigns in anticipation of a second election. The company has forced thousands of employees to attend meetings about unions and posted signs criticizing unions in facility restrooms, tactics it also employed prior to the first election

The re-vote decision comes nearly four months after an NLRB hearing officer, Kerstin Meyers, recommended. Meyers, whose filing guided the final ruling, also took aim at Amazon’s efforts to get the Postal Service to install a mailbox in front of the warehouse because it could have given workers the impression that the company had a role in collecting and counting the ballots. 

In the decision on Monday, Nov. 28, regional director Lisa Henderson wrote that the question was whether the mailbox altered the agency’s election procedures “to give the appearance of irregular and improper” involvement by Amazon. 

“The answer is a resounding yes,” Henderson wrote. 

She also slammed Amazon’s reasoning that the mailbox made voting more convenient for workers, noting that there were “more than 49 postal branches with secure receptacles within 20 miles of the distribution center, in addition to the residential mailboxes available to most employees.” 

Henderson had set the previous election rules and took issue with Amazon’s request to make voting “easier,” adding that the company “ignored the spirit of my directive by unilaterally requisitioning the installation of a postal mailbox.” 

Meyers also found that Amazon’s pressuring employees to display anti-union paraphernalia the company handed out was improper because it “could reasonably cause an employee to perceive that the Employer was trying to discern their support for, or against, the Union.” 

The decision said that Amazon and the union will need to file written positions about their “preferred date, time, and method for the second election.” 

Amazon has until Dec. 13 to ask the full NLRB to review Henderson’s decision. Even if the company seeks that review, the election could move forward while the board considers Amazon’s arguments.

“Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union,” said Appelbaum. 

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