Amazon Warehouse Workers Vote Against Union

RWDSU alleges that illegal tactics influenced election results
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Amazon Warehouse Workers Vote against Union Alabama National Retail Federation
Amazon countered the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s drive for unionization at Alabama warehouse by asserting that employees had access to good jobs without needing to be organized.

Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, have voted overwhelmingly against forming a union, by a margin of at least 1,608 votes to 696, according to a preliminary count reported on by The New York Times, which noted that the remaining yet-to-be-tallied votes wouldn’t be enough to change the result.

Amazon countered the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s drive for unionization by asserting that the company’s employees had access to good jobs without needing to be organized. The online retailer has recently grown its workforce to more than 1.3 million people. The Bessemer warehouse opened last year, just as the pandemic began, as part of a major expansion at Amazon that intensified during the public-health crisis.

The union, an affiliate of the Washington, D.C.-based United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), accused Amazon of anti-union tactics before and during the voting process, which took place from early February through the end of last month.

Stuart Applebaum, president of the New York-based RWDSU, has called for a comprehensive investigation into Amazon's “despicable” actions, which the union said included requiring all of its employees to attend numerous lectures “filled with mistruths and lies”; inundating the internet, airwaves and social media with misleading ads; bringing in dozens of outsiders and union-busters to walk the floor of the warehouse; posting signs throughout the facility and texting and calling employees at home incessantly; lying about union dues in a right-to-work state; and installing a drop box on warehouse property despite the National Labor Relations Board’s denial of the company’s request to do so.

In a statement commenting on the election, Amazon said: “It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true. 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. Our employees are the heart and soul of Amazon, and we’ve always worked hard to listen to them, take their feedback, make continuous improvements, and invest heavily to offer great pay and benefits in a safe and inclusive workplace. We’re not perfect, but we’re proud of our team and what we offer, and will keep working to get better every day.”

As for the future, the company said that it wanted “to sit down and share ideas with any policymaker who wants to pass laws ensuring that all workers in the U.S. are guaranteed at least $15 an hour, health care from day one and other strong benefits.”

A total of 3,215 ballots, representing 55% of the 5,805 eligible voters at the Bessemer facility, was cast in the election, the Times reported, with  a majority of votes, or 1,608, needed to win. Approximately 500 ballots were contested, mainly by Amazon, according to the union. Those ballots weren’t counted.

“With reports that a majority of employees at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, have voted to reject representation by a union, the results are clear,” noted David French, SVP of government relations at the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association. “The process works and employees can make an informed decision despite the enormous scrutiny under which this campaign was conducted. Union representation is a choice for workers, but many clearly prefer opportunities in a competitive marketplace that provides strong wages and benefits over the anonymity of a collective bargaining agreement.”

Seattle-based Amazon is No. 2 on Progressive Grocer’s 2020 PG 100 list of the top grocers in the United States, while Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market, which it owns, is No. 24.

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