Google reached a private settlement with a former employee who said he was fired over workplace activism, a report says

laurence berland google Business Insider tyler sonnemaker
Laurence Berland had worked at the tech giant for 11 years when he was fired.

  • Google has reached a private settlement with former employee Laurence Berland, Bloomberg reported.
  • Google fired Berland in 2019, saying that he abused access to other employees’ calendars.
  • Berland said Google terminated his contract in an attempt to crush unionization efforts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Google has reached a private settlement with an employee who said he was fired because of workplace activism, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) approved the private settlement between Google and Laurence Berland, a software engineer, in July, the publication reported, citing agency records obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

The records didn’t list the terms of the settlement.

Google and Berland’s lawyer, Laurie Burgess, didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. Google has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Berland was among four employees known as the “Thanksgiving Four” after Google fired them in November 2019. Google said it had fired Berland, who had worked at the tech giant for 11 years, for accessing other employees’ calendars. At the time, it said it punished staff “who abused their privileged access to internal systems, such as our security tools or colleagues’ calendars.”

Berland said during his testimony last week that he had signed up for updates on changes to some of his colleagues’ calendars so he could see how Google’s work with an anti-union consulting firm was changing its response to internal criticism, Bloomberg reported.

Berland said that he told Google before he was fired that he had accessed the calendars “because I was concerned that our rights were being violated,” per Bloomberg.

All four ex-Google employees denied violating Google’s policies and filed complaints via the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in December 2019, alleging that Google terminated their contracts in an attempt to crush unionization efforts.

The NLRB accused Google of violating the National Labor Relations Act by terminating the employees. The case is now in the third week of its trial.

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Home Depot told an employee to remove a BLM logo or quit, according to a labor board complaint

A bright orange sign for Home Depot stands tall against a blue sky with clouds.
The National Labor Relations Board has accused a Home Depot store of forcing an employee to quit after he wore a Black Lives Matter logo.

  • Home Depot suspended a worker who refused to remove a Black Lives Matter logo, a labor agency said.
  • The NLRB said the worker, who eventually quit, spoke to colleagues about racial discrimination.
  • Home Depot said the complaint “misrepresents the relevant facts.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Minneapolis Home Depot employee who wore a Black Lives Matter logo on his apron and spoke to other workers about racial discrimination was suspended after he refused to remove the logo, according to a labor board complaint.

The Minneapolis branch of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said in the complaint that the worker started wearing the “BLM” lettering on his apron in August 2020. Sometime this year, the company told the employee to either remove the logo or leave the store, the complaint said. This led to him being suspended, it said.

The Home Depot store then gave the worker an ultimatum: stop wearing the logo or quit, the complaint said. In a statement on August 18, The NLRB accused the hardware giant of constructive discharge because the employee eventually left his job. Home Depot “unlawfully enforced its otherwise lawful dress code” and “threatened employees not to engage in activity regarding racial harassment,” it said.

The unnamed worker had “various conversations with coworkers, supervisors, and managers about subjects such as ongoing discrimination and harassment” at the store in Minneapolis, the complaint said, although it did not provide further details.

Home Depot told Insider that the complaint “misrepresents the relevant facts.”

“The Home Depot does not tolerate workplace harassment of any kind and takes all reports of discrimination or harassment seriously, as we did in this case,” a spokeswoman said.

“We disagree with the characterization of this situation and look forward to sharing the facts during the NLRB’s process,” she said.

Read more: America should make racial justice part of our official foreign policy and take Black Lives Matter global

While the hardware store’s dress code prohibits displays of “causes or political messages unrelated to workplace matters,” the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows workers to bring attention to discrimination they may be facing in the workplace, the NLRB said.

“Issues of racial harassment directly impact the working conditions of employees,” Jennifer Hadsall, NLRB’s regional director in Minneapolis, said in a statement.

“The NLRA protects employees’ rights to raise these issues with the goal of improving their working conditions,” she said.

Many companies were vocal in their support of the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Craig Menear, Home Depot’s CEO, said in a statement at the time that “we must stand with all who are committed to change that will bring us closer to realizing an end to discrimination and hatred.”

The complaint said that a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge would happen in October, unless Home Depot and the worker reach a settlement before that.

The NLRB did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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NLRB official says Amazon violated labor law in union vote, recommends new election, according to union

Amazon Bessemer mailbox
The mailbox outside Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, that prompted allegations from the RWDSU that the company was trying to manipulate the election.

  • An NLRB official found Amazon violated labor during its union election, according to the union.
  • As a result, the official recommended that a new election should be held.
  • An NLRB regional director will now make a formal decision about whether to hold a second election.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The National Labor Relations Board official overseeing the union election at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, recommended on Monday that a new election be held, according to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

“In a final step towards a formal decision, the Hearing Officer who presided over the case has determined that Amazon violated labor law; and is recommending that the Regional Director set aside the results of the election and direct a second election,” the RWDSU, under which Amazon’s workers would unionize, said in a statement.

The decision is not final, however. It now heads to the NLRB’s regional director for Region 10, which includes Alabama, who will make a formal decision about whether to adopt the hearing officer’s recommendations.

If the regional director agrees, the NLRB will issue an order tossing out the results of the original election, in which Amazon employees voted 1,798 to 738 against unionizing, with 505 ballots challenged and 76 voided, and will conduct a new election.

“Throughout the NLRB hearing, we heard compelling evidence how Amazon tried to illegally interfere with and intimidate workers as they sought to exercise their right to form a union. We support the hearing officer’s recommendation that the NLRB set aside the election results and direct a new election,” the RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said in the statement.

“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. Amazon cheated, they got caught, and they are being held accountable.”

“Our employees had a chance to be heard during a noisy time when all types of voices were weighing into the national debate, and 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,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to Insider.

Following the initial election period, in which Amazon aggressively campaigned against the union, the RWDSU filed 23 formal objections to Amazon’s conduct, accusing it of violating labor laws by interfering with the voting process and trying to pressure workers into voting against forming a union.

One of the union’s major objections revolved around a mailbox that Amazon executives had pushed the USPS to install outside its warehouse, prompting concerns that the mailbox could be perceived as a way to deter workers from voting in favor of a union.

Amazon had denied those allegations, previously telling Insider that “rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda.”

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Giant inflatable rats used by labor unions are constitutionally protected free speech, labor board rules

"Scabby the Rat" is a fixture at labor disputes, first deployed in 1990 by a union in Chicago.
“Scabby the Rat” is a fixture at labor disputes, first deployed in 1990 by a union in Chicago.

  • “Scabby the Rat” was first used by labor unions in 1990.
  • The inflatable rat ranges in size from 12 feet to 25 feet.
  • The Trump administration had argued its “red eyes, fangs, and claws” constituted an illegal threat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Labor unions have a constitutionally protected right to protest using giant inflatable rodents, a federal board ruled Wednesday.

“Scabby the Rat,” as it is known, has became a staple of labor protests in the United States, often rolled out when a company has decided to hire non-union contractors. The menacing inflatables were first deployed in 1990 by a bricklayers union in Illinois, according to the Chicago Tribune. Some have been as tall as 25 feet.

In this case, the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, headquartered just outside Chicago, had brought a 12-foot “rat” along with it to a trade show for recreational vehicles. The target was Lippert Components, which supplied parts for another firm, MacAllister Machinery, that the union accused of engaging in unfair labor practices.

Under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, unions are generally prohibited from engaging in secondary boycotts, or seeking to intimidate so-called “neutral” companies that are not the direct target of their dispute. The question considered by the National Labor Relations Board – an independent federal agency whose members are appointed to five-year terms by the president – was where to draw the line between legal speech and illicit intimidation.

The Trump administration had sided against labor, submitting a legal brief maintaining that the giant rats were “glaring in character and size and an unmistakable symbol of contempt,” their “red eyes, fangs, and claws” constituting a threat, not constitutionally protected expression. The ACLU, in turn, argued that the First Amendment was at stake, arguing that the previous administration was “attempting to exterminate Scabby because he is a labor symbol.”

Ultimately, even those members of the NLRB who were appointed by former President Donald Trump sided with the ACLU and organized labor.

In her opinion, NLRB Chairman Lauren M. McFerran, a Democrat and appointee of President Joe Biden, wrote that courts “have consistently deemed banners and inflatable rats to fall within the realm of protected speech, rather than that of intimidation and the like.”

The NLRB’s three other members, all Republicans, likewise agreed that while federal labor law limits activities targeting a “neutral” employer, it does not override the Constitution and its protections for free speech.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Amazon exec Dave Clark pushed USPS to install mailbox now at center of union election controversy

Mailbox Amazon Bessemer
The mailbox outside the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer.

Amazon consumer CEO Dave Clark led the company’s push to persuade the US Postal Service to install a controversial temporary mailbox outside Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, during a recent union election, multiple outlets reported Monday.

“Please let me know where we stand on this — this is a highly visible Dave Clark initiative,” Becky Moore, an Amazon senior manager, said in a January email to USPS officials presented at a National Labor Relations Board hearing Monday, according to Bloomberg.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Jay Smith, a USPS official in charge of managing major accounts including Amazon, also testified to the NLRB that it was the first time he was aware of the agency installing such a mailbox at the request of a private company, Bloomberg reported.

Photos of the mailbox showed that modifications made by the USPS to accommodate more outgoing ballots could potentially have allowed a recipient assigned to an adjacent incoming mailbox to access the outgoing mail, according to Bloomberg.

Last week, Amazon employee Kevin Jackson testified that he saw the company’s security guards use keys to access that outgoing mail slot, but Amazon denied those allegations, Bloomberg previously reported.

Amazon’s employees voted against unionizing in April. But the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, under which employees would have unionized, filed official objections to the NLRB, claiming Amazon violated labor laws during its anti-union campaign.

The NLRB agreed to hold a hearing to determine whether Amazon acted illegally and whether a new election should be held.

The RWDSU specifically objected to Amazon’s push to convince the USPS to install the mailbox – which came despite the NLRB rejecting Amazon’s requests to force employees to vote in-person – saying the mailbox “provided a clear ability to intimidate workers.”

Amazon previously told Insider the box was an effort to allow workers to vote more easily.

The Washington Post reported last month that the USPS only decided to install the mailbox after repeated requests from Amazon corporate employees, but testimony and evidence presented during the multi-day NLRB hearing has shed more light on Amazon’s tactics.

Smith also testified that the USPS explicitly told Amazon not to place anything around the mailbox that suggested it was where employees needed to vote, CNBC reported. Yet Amazon proceeded to place a tent around the mailbox that read: “Speak for yourself! Mail your ballot here.”

“I was surprised because I was asked, ‘Can anything physical be put on the box?'” Smith said, according to CNBC, adding: “I said no. I did not want to see anything else put around that box indicating that it was a vote.”

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US labor board to hold hearing on whether to redo Amazon union election based on evidence submitted by union

amazon rwdsu BESSEMER, AL - MARCH 29: An RWDSU union rep holds a sign outside the Amazon fulfillment warehouse at the center of a unionization drive on March 29, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama. Employees at the fulfillment center are currently voting on whether to form a union, a decision that could have national repercussions. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, voted against forming a union, but the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, under which they would have unionized, challenged the results.

  • The National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing on whether to redo the Amazon union vote in Bessemer, Alabama.
  • Amazon employees there voted against unionizing, but the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union challenged the results.
  • The NLRB said the union’s evidence warranted a hearing to consider whether Amazon acted illegally and whether a new election should be held.
  • Amazon has denied any wrongdoing.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday said evidence submitted by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union concerning Amazon’s conduct during a union vote in Bessemer, Alabama, justified holding a hearing to review the evidence and determine whether to redo the election.

“The evidence submitted by the union in support of its objections could be grounds for overturning the election if introduced at a hearing,” the NLRB said.

The NLRB’s ruling clears the way for a hearing, which it plans to hold on May 7, where it will review the RWDSU’s evidence. If the NLRB finds Amazon illegally interfered in the election, it can void the results and re-run the election.

Amazon has denied any wrongdoing.

The RWDSU, the union which Amazon’s employees voted on whether to join, failed to secure enough votes from Amazon warehouse workers to form a union in a highly publicized election earlier this month.

When the NLRB publicly announced the vote count on April 9, the tally was 1,798 votes against unionizing and 738 votes for the union, with 505 ballots challenged and 76 ballots voided – 70.9% of valid votes counted were against the union.

But the RWDSU subsequently filed 23 objections against Amazon and how it acted during the contentious March election, claiming Amazon’s conduct prevented employees from having a “free and uncoerced exercise of choice” on which way to vote. The RWDSU alleged Amazon’s agents unlawfully threatened employees with closure of the warehouse if they joined the union and that the company emailed a warning it would lay off 75% of the proposed bargaining unit because of the union.

An Amazon spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the NLRB’s statement.

At the May 7 hearing, the NLRB would have the option to overturn the election results if any evidence of illegal action is ruled credible.

(Reuters reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese)

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Amazon’s victory against a union drive in Alabama proved workers want better workplaces, but America’s labor laws are too broken to help them get that, experts say

alabama amazon warehouse unionization 2x1
Amazon faces a historic union vote in Alabama.

After one of the most high-profile union – and anti-union – campaigns in recent history, Amazon employees in Bessemer, Alabama, voted overwhelmingly against unionizing, with the National Labor Relations Board confirming Friday that 71% of eligible ballots were cast in opposition.

But eight labor experts told Insider that focusing on the vote tally misses the bigger takeaway from this saga: that American workers are demanding better workplaces and a voice on the job, and America’s current labor laws simply aren’t designed to help them accomplish that goal.

Still, they said, Bessemer put a spotlight on how stacked the deck is against workers, and that the broad, diverse public support for the union drive showed the US labor movement is gaining more steam than it has in decades.

Amazon, which had aggressively opposed the union effort, undoubtedly won a significant battle this week (pending likely legal challenges from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union). But it may have put a target on its back that could prove costly in what’s likely to be an ongoing war over how companies treat their workers, the experts said.

The fight was never going to be fair

Amazon responded to the vote Friday by saying its “employees made the choice to vote against joining a union” and that it was glad their “collective voices were finally heard.”

But experts said that misrepresents what has happened since November, when Bessemer employees officially asked the NLRB to hold a union election.

“The result reflects the imbalance in current US labor law, rather than any genuine expression of whether workers would like to have more of a voice in their workplace,” Rebecca Givan, an associate labor and employment professor at Rutgers University, told Insider.

“This demonstrates just how hard it is for workers to gain a voice on the job when the employer has unlimited resources, full access to workers all day long, and very few legal constraints on what it can do or say,” she said.

Over the past several decades, American executives and politicians have chipped away at labor laws and workers’ right to organize, experts said. At the same time, companies have kept American workers’ pay and benefits down, and shipped jobs overseas where labor is cheaper – even as workers’ productivity, as well as corporate profits and executive pay, have soared.

In European counties, like France, where labor laws more heavily favor workers, some Amazon employees have been able to successfully unionize. That has paid dividends: in July, Amazon gave its French employees a 1.6% permanent raise following union negotiations.

In Bessemer, workers had a much tougher road to travel.

“Unions lose in 90% of the cases when management opposes the organizing effort,” which Amazon’s management did, Tom Kochan, a professor of management at MIT, told Insider.

That’s depite a surge in pro-union sentiment in the US in recent years. Kochan’s research in 2017 found that around 48% of non-union workers would join one if they had the opportunity, while a Gallup poll from August found that 65% of Americans approve of unions – the highest percentage in nearly 20 years.

But under US labor law, companies have lots of tools at their disposal to try to prevent employees from unionizing, from forcing them to listen to anti-union messaging in “captive-audience” meetings, to having a significant say over which employees are eligible to unionize in the first place. Even when companies violate those laws, the NLRB, which oversees union elections, lacks the power to issue fines, which experts said gives companies little incentive to play fair.

“The most important story is not the fact that the union didn’t win. Rather, it’s that they got as close to winning as they did,” Erin Hatton, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Buffalo whose research focuses on work and labor movements, told Insider.

“Through legal coercion and illegal tactics, employers spend a great deal of money to keep unions out and it usually works. So this outcome isn’t all that surprising. And yet the workers were incredibly successful in so many ways,” she said.

Anti-union tactics in the spotlight

One of those successes, experts said, was bringing attention to Amazon’s industry-standard, but still aggressively anti-union tactics.

“Amazon’s tactics during the campaign and voting process were successful for them but now are being questioned legally and in the public view,” Lynne Vincent, an assistant professor of management at Syracuse University, told Insider.

Even before employees started talking about forming a union, Amazon had hired private detectives known for union busting, spied on workers’ private Facebook groups, and tracked unionization risk with a heat map tool in an effort to thwart organizing efforts before they gained momentum.

Amazon also illegally fired multiple employees last year who organized demonstrations to shed light on what they said were unsafe and grueling working conditions, the NLRB found. Amazon previously said it disagreed with the board’s findings in one case, while the other case is still pending before an NLRB administrative law judge.

Once employees took their union drive public, Amazon enlisted expensive “union avoidance” consultants to help kick its union-busting tactics into overdrive. Amazon pushed its anti-union message through websites, t-shirts, frequent texts to employees, and midnight “education” meetings, which labor experts told Insider were fairly typically in union campaigns like this.

Amazon’s executives and PR team also waged an atypical attack on members of Congress who voiced support for the unions (Amazon later apologized for some of its tweets), and deployed an army of warehouse employees to respond to criticism of the company on social media.

But the company also sought to shape the voting process itself.

The NLRB has allowed mail-in voting in union elections since March 2020 due to the pandemic, but Amazon (twice, unsuccessfully) tried to get the NLRB to hold an in-person election. When that failed, it reportedly pressed the United States Postal Service to install a mailbox outside the Bessemer warehouse.

An Amazon spokesperson previously told Insider that the USPS installed the mailbox “for the convenience of our employees.”

But the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union – under which Amazon’s Bessemer employees would have unionized if the vote had passed – accused Amazon of using the mailbox to intimidate workers and plans to file unfair labor practices charges with the NLRB that, if serious enough, could cause the NLRB to throw out the election result.

John Logan, a labor and employment professor at San Francisco State University who specializes in companies’ union avoidance strategies, told Insider that the mailbox’s placement likely gave employees an impression that “Amazon was playing some kind of direct role in monitoring and even perhaps in counting the votes, which clearly creates an atmosphere of pressure and potentially unlawful intimidation.”

Vincent said that companies who use a similar anti-union playbook to Amazon “may see validation in the effectiveness of the tactics,” but that the Bessemer campaign may also cause politicians to reexamine and ultimately outlaw some of those tactics.

What’s next for American workers?

Kochan said the Bessemer union drive was “another clear indication that [US] labor law is broken, perhaps in its current form, beyond repair.”

But many of the experts who spoke to Insider said the massive amount of attention and public support it generated suggest there may finally be an appetite to begin those repairs.

Under the Trump administration, the NLRB “systematically rolled back workers’ rights,” according to an analysis by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. President Joe Biden has already signaled he intends to be much more pro-worker than his predecessor, releasing a video in support of unionization efforts and against corporate “anti-union propaganda” – as Amazon employees were voting.

“Given the pro union sentiment in many areas, as well as the clear backing of the current administration, it would still not be surprising to see successful efforts to unionize businesses in other areas, and eventually, even at Amazon itself,” Joseph Seiner, a labor and employment law professor at the University of South Carolina, told Insider.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, from Republican Sen. Marco Rubio to Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, voiced support for the Amazon employees’ push to unionize. The House also passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would make it easier for workers to organize, harder for employers to misclassify workers, and ban certain union-busting tactics – though the bill faces steep odds in the Senate.

Veena Dubal, a law professor at UC Hastings who researches how technology impacts workers’ lives, said that the Bessemer vote may push regulators to look more closely at how giant tech firms like Amazon exert power over workers.

“A lot of regulatory focus has hinged on anti-trust regulation-the need to break up Amazon because of its significant market power-but the truth is, Amazon also exerts monopsony power in labor markets. In areas where Amazon warehouses exist, wages go down, not up,” Dubal said.

The COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice protests following George Floyd’s death last May have also forced Americans to reckon with how race plays a role in the workplace. That became a focus in Bessemer, where the RWDSU estimated that 85% of Amazon’s employees are Black, according to The New York Times.

“The core issue in the campaign was not about specific concessions but worker power. And in this case, it can’t be distinguished from the struggle for racial equity,” Premilla Nadasen, an associate professor of history at Barnard College who researches alternative labor movements, told Insider. “Black people are being disenfranchised electorally and subject to systemic violence. So, the struggle for economic control over matters more.”

“Official union membership figures aside,” she said, “more and more working-class Americans are recognizing the need to have a collective voice.”

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Here’s the mailbox that could become a focal point in the battle between Amazon and union officials

Amazon Bessemer mailbox
The mailbox stands in front of the Bessemer warehouse.

  • The union behind the failed unionization attempt has argued a warehouse mailbox may have deterred voting.
  • The RWDSU obtained emails between USPS workers showing Amazon had pushed for the mailbox.
  • The union said the mailbox would be a primary piece of evidence in its unfair labor practice charge.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A mailbox outside of Amazon’s Alabama warehouse could become a central focus in the aftermath of a historic union battle at the site.

On Friday, a vote count revealed Amazon workers at the company’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama voted against forming a union, with 70.8% being “no” votes.

The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued a statement in response to the vote announcing its plans to file an objection and unfair labor practice charge (ULP) against Amazon.

The union highlighted the mailbox when announcing the ULP charge.

“Worst yet, even though the NLRB definitively denied Amazon’s request for a drop box on the warehouse property, Amazon felt it was above the law and worked with the postal service anyway to install one,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the union, said in a statement. “They did this because it provided a clear ability to intimidate workers.”

The day before the vote count the union revealed it had found emails showing Amazon had pushed the US Postal Service to install the mailbox at the warehouse.

The union has argued that the mailbox could be perceived as a way to deter workers from voting in favor of a union. The group has been working to represent nearly 6,000 Amazon workers at the Alabama warehouse.

Over the past seven weeks, Amazon workers voted on whether to join the first union in the US that would represent Amazon employees.

“It’s fairly common for there to be unfair labor practice charges at the end of a contentious election like this,” John Logan, a labor and employment professor at San Francisco State University who specializes in tactics companies use to defeat union drives, previously told Insider. He added that it’s “fairly difficult” to predict how the NLRB will ultimately rule on those charges.

When the mailbox was initially installed in February – just before the voting process began – Amazon reportedly emailed workers telling them to use the mailbox to vote against forming a union.

Amazon has historically acted to prevent unionization at its warehouses. An Insider investigation found Amazon used several anti-union tactics, including posting anti-union signs at its warehouses and holding meetings designed to convince workers to vote against the union.

Mailbox Amazon Bessemer
The mailbox outside the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer.

The union has spoken out against the mailbox in the past. The group said the mailbox could make it seem as if Amazon would be able to see the votes – a factor that would deter employees voting in favor of a union.

The mailbox was installed after the National Labor Relations Board rejected the company’s request for employees to vote in person at the warehouse. The board opted for mail-in votes instead.

Amazon told Insider the boxes were an effort to allow workers to vote more easily.

“We said from the beginning that we wanted all employees to vote and proposed many different options to try and make it easy,” an Amazon spokesperson told Insider. “The RWDSU fought those at every turn and pushed for a mail-only election, which the NLRB’s own data showed would reduce turnout. This mailbox – which only the USPS had access to – was a simple, secure, and completely optional way to make it easy for employees to vote, no more and no less.”

The USPS also responded to the reports about the emails.

“The box that was installed – a Centralized Box Unit (CBU) with a collection compartment – was suggested by the Postal Service as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point,” a USPS spokesperson told Insider.

“It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true,” Amazon said in a statement following the finalized vote. “Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us. And Amazon didn’t win-our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union.”

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Amazon reportedly pushed the USPS to install a mailbox outside its Alabama warehouse, a move the union could use to challenge the outcome of the vote

Amazon workers Alabama union
  • Amazon pushed the USPS to install mailbox at one of its warehouses, according to emails obtained by a union.
  • The mailbox could be seen as a tactic to deter workers from voting to unionize.
  • The union could argue to overturn a negative vote result by citing the emails.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon reportedly pushed the US Postal Service to install a mailbox outside of its Bessemer, AL warehouse, according to emails obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request first reported by The Washington Post.

Over the past seven weeks, employees have been voting whether to form the first Amazon union in the US. The emails could have an impact on the union vote at the warehouse after they were obtained by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the Post reports.

The group is working to represent nearly 6,000 Amazon employees at the Alabama site, in a historic union battle that could set a precedent for other companies.

More than 3,000 workers cast ballots, according to the union, and hundreds have been challenged, mostly from Amazon. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) began its public count of the votes on Thursday.

The union has issued complaints about the mailbox in the past, as the mailbox was installed in February, not long before the start of the mail-in ballot process at the warehouse.

When the mailbox was set up, Amazon reportedly blasted workers with emails and texts telling them to “vote no” and put their ballots in the on-site mailbox, Vice’s Motherboard reported.

At the time, the union argued the mailbox could make it seem as if Amazon itself would directly see the ballots – a move that could deter employees from voting.

Prior to the installation of the mailbox, the NLRB rejected the company’s request for employees to vote in-person at the warehouse. Instead, the organization opted to only allow workers to vote via mail.

The Washington Post reported that if the union loses the vote, the emails – which show Amazon told USPS to get the mailbox up as soon as possible – could potentially be used to challenge the result of the vote, as it could be seen as a tactic to prevent workers from voting.

“We said from the beginning that we wanted all employees to vote and proposed many different options to try and make it easy,” an Amazon spokesperson told Insider. “The RWDSU fought those at every turn and pushed for a mail-only election, which the NLRB’s own data showed would reduce turnout. This mailbox – which only the USPS had access to – was a simple, secure, and completely optional way to make it easy for employees to vote, no more and no less.”

“The box that was installed – a Centralized Box Unit (CBU) with a collection compartment- was suggested by the Postal Service as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point,” a USPS spokesperson told Insider.

RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum told The Washington Post that the emails show Amazon felt it was “above the law.”

“They did this because it provided a clear ability to intimidate workers,” Appelbaum said.

Amazon has historically acted against unionization at its warehouses, employing tactics ranging from posting anti-union signs at its warehouses to holding meetings designed to convince workers to vote against the union.

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More than 3,200 Amazon employees at Bessemer, Alabama, fulfillment center cast ballots in historic union vote

Amazon workers Alabama union
  • The NLRB has counted 3,215 votes in Amazon employees’ historic union vote in Bessemer, Alabama.
  • RWDSU, the union under which employees would unionize, said Amazon challenged hundreds of ballots.
  • The public vote count could begin as early as Thursday, the RWDSU said in a statement.
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A total of 3,215 employees at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, cast ballots in a closely watched vote over whether to unionize, according to a press release from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

The warehouse has more than 5,800 employees, meaning roughly 55% of employees voted.

The RWDSU, under which Amazon’s warehouse workers would unionize, said the National Labor Relations Board has cleared all unchallenged ballots, but that “hundreds of challenged ballots” remain, most of which were challenged by Amazon, and that “more issues could impact the final results.”

The NLRB will likely start its public count of the votes via video conference on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning Eastern Time, according to the RWDSU.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

In the contentious union vote, Amazon has repeatedly contested aspects of the voting process to the NLRB, which denied the company’s request to install cameras monitoring the ballot room in the NLRB’s Birmingham office.

Union organizers have also complained about Amazon’s tactics, which have reportedly included enlisting local police to monitor organizers and requesting that traffic lights near the warehouse be reconfigured to limit the amount of time organizers have to speak with employees entering and leaving the facility.

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