Amazon Files Objection to Alabama Union Vote

Amazon FC exterior

Amazon has filed a motion with the National Labor Relations Board seeking to postpone a planned union vote next month at its fulfillment center in Bessemer, AL, which if successful would create its first union shop, an outcome the ecommerce giant has vigorously opposed at every turn.

In its motion to stay the election, filed Thursday with the NLRB, Amazon argues there are a number of faults that need to be corrected before the vote can go forward. It’s the first union vote at an Amazon facility since 2014.

A regional director of the NLRB approved a mail-in ballot for the vote on Jan. 15. The vote is supposed to run from Feb. 8 to March 29.

The NLRB approved the vote to go forward in November. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union originally petitioned to represent 1,500 workers at the facility, but Amazon asked that the pool be expanded to the entire bargaining unit of 5,800.

“This election case presents a perfect storm—multiple gaps in NLRB precedent, Acting Regional Director errors and missed opportunities for mail-ballot improvements, all with the rights of thousands of employee-voters at stake,” Amazon said in the filing. “It cries out for a stay, so that the Board can set election matters back on course before ballots are mailed. Otherwise, this case threatens to tie up the Board (and a federal court) for years, instead of resulting in a clear and cogent resolution of the issues up front.”

In particular, Amazon said a previous NLRB ruling governing mail-in ballots for union elections held during the pandemic dealt with a very different scenario – a smaller bargaining unit, and a potential indoor vote at Aspirus Keweenaw, a hospital in Laurium, MI, vs. outdoors in the parking lot as Amazon proposed for the Bessemer facility.

“The Aspirus understanding of COVID-19 reflected assumptions developed comparatively earlier in the pandemic—before scientific understanding of the virus and possible precautions had developed to where it is today,” Amazon argued in its motion. “Finally, Aspirus suggested no mail-ballot guidelines to alleviate the acknowledged mail-ballot voter turnout problems.”

Amazon has repeatedly stated its workers are well-treated and well-paid, above prevailing rates at its thousands of facilities, and thus a union is not necessary. Many managers of fulfillment and distribution centers can attest to that fact, as they have a hard time battling Amazon in the war for associates.

And they are everywhere. According to the latest count from MWPVL International, a Canadian consultancy that tracks Amazon, the company has 814 facilities in the U.S., including 233 fulfillment centers, 399 delivery centers, 83 sortation centers, 55 Prime Now hubs, 11 airport hubs and 33 Whole Foods and Amazon Pantry distribution/fulfillment centers. Its fleets of sprinter vans and stepvans are legion as Amazon strives to satisfy the “need it now” cravings of its growing population of Prime members.