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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Bernie Sanders applauds the ‘courage’ of Amazon workers for taking on the tech giant, says failed union vote will inspire other unionization efforts

sanders bezos amazon senate budget
Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, right. Getty Images

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders said Amazon workers will inspire other union-organizing efforts.
  • Workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon plant voted the union down 1,798 to 738.
  • Sanders has previously criticized Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for trying to stop unionization efforts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Bernie Sanders applauded Amazon workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, factory for taking on the company, even as a majority of votes were against unionizing.

“The willingness of Amazon workers in Bessemer to take on the wealthiest man in the world and a powerful company in an anti-union state is an inspiration,” Sanders said on Twitter, in response to news of the failed union attempt. “It takes an enormous amount of courage to stand up and fight back, and they should be applauded.”

The intense campaigning from union activists and Amazon ended with a decisive victory for the online retailer, as 1,798 workers voted against the union, and 738 workers voted for it.

In further tweets, Sanders said he agrees with calls for an investigation into the tactics the company used in its efforts to defeat the organizing attempt.

“The workers were up against a company that was willing to spend vast sums of money and use every kind of tactic there is to defeat them,” he said.

“The history of every struggle in this country tells us that we do not always win the first time out,” Sanders added. “But I believe, as a result of their courage, workers in Alabama will inspire significant growth in union organizing efforts around the country.”

Read more: Amazon employees blast the forced return to offices as unfair, and Facebook and Oracle appear to be trying to poach frustrated remote workers

Progressive International, a global organization that backs progressive ideas, said efforts to create an Amazon union, even as it was rejected, “planted powerful seeds to #MakeAmazonPay.”

In a statement, Amazon thanked employees for participating in the election, and said, “There’s been a lot of noise over the past few months, and we’re glad that your collective voices were finally heard.”

“It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true,” the statement read.

Sanders had been sparring with Amazon in the weeks leading up to the union vote and even visited workers at the Bessemer, Alabama warehouse.

Prior to that, the Vermont senator criticized Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for not showing up to a Congressional hearing and said had the executive been present he would have said, “you’re the wealthiest person in the world. Why are you doing everything in your power to stop your workers in Bessemer, Alabama, from joining a union?”

The company later fired back at the senator, with Amazon Consumer Chief Dave Clark tweeting Sanders “should save his finger wagging lecture until after he actually delivers in his own backyard,” referencing minimum wage legislation.

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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.

Read the original article on Business Insider