Amazon’s Effort to Force In-Person Unionization Vote Opposed by Union

February 3, 2021 Updated: February 3, 2021

Amazon’s effort to force thousands of workers at an Alabama warehouse to vote in-person about whether to unionize is being opposed by the union they’re trying to join.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that the unionization vote could take place by mail because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon asked the board to review the ruling, asserting “the best approach to a valid, fair and successful election is one that is conducted manually, in-person.”

The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union said Amazon’s petition should be denied because it doesn’t satisfy any conditions for a review.

“The Employer’s arguments for abandoning Aspirus Keweenaw are frequently raised and frequently rejected arguments with how Regional Directors have exercised their discretion in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic and not ‘compelling reasons for reconsideration’ of a decision issued a little more than two months ago,” the union’s lawyers argued, referring to the NLRB decision to implement a framework amid the pandemic for when union elections would take place by mail.

Triggers under the framework include a 14-day COVID-19 test positivity rate in the location of a facility being 5 percent or higher, an in-person election not being able to be held due to state or local health orders restricting gathering sizes, and a current COVID-19 outbreak at the workplace.

In a separate filing, the union asked the board to reject Amazon’s request to delay the election. Amazon alleged a mail-in election would “disenfranchise” workers, although the union said the claim amounted to speculation.

“This claim in the Motion apparently stems from the argument in the Request for Review that mail-ballot elections on average have lower turnout. Voter turnout statistics, however, are not the same as statistics regarding voter disenfranchisement,” it stated.

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People protest working conditions outside of an Amazon fulfillment center in New York City on May 1, 2020. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Some 6,000 Amazon workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse are eligible to vote on whether to unionize. A simple majority vote is required. If workers decided to unionize, it would be the first Amazon warehouse union in the United States. There are unions on Amazon’s entertainment side, and at warehouses in Europe. A Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union spokesperson told The Epoch Times that it’s unknown whether the vote will be successful.

Unless the NLRB grants Amazon’s requests, ballots will be mailed out beginning Feb. 8.

Union organizers are telling workers that having a union would help protect them against “dehumanizing working conditions.” Amazon has struggled with worker safety, particularly at warehouses.

Amazon has stated workers would have to pay hundreds of dollars in dues. Workers shouldn’t unionize and should use the money to buy food and school supplies, the company stated.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, meanwhile, announced on Feb. 2 that he’s stepping down from the role. Bezos, one of the richest men in the world, plans to become Amazon’s executive chair in the fall.

“Jeff Bezos’ business model for Amazon was feasting on public subsidies, paying little or no taxes and dehumanizing and mistreating his employees,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, said in a statement. “The appropriate legacy for him should be workers coming together in Bessemer, Alabama and organizing a union, and creating change in Amazon’s model of employee relations. Bezos’s model for treating workers must not become the model for the future of work.”

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