The National Labor Relations Board today denied Amazon’s request to delay a planned union vote at its fulfillment center in Bessemer, AL, clearing the way for a vote by mail-in ballot beginning Monday and continuing through March 29.
A positive vote would be the first chink in Amazon’s formidable anti-union wall, but experts say it’s a long shot, given the company’s greater ability to influence employees’ opinions. Even if it does happen, contract negotiations would be a long, drawn-out battle.
In its decision, the NLRB said Amazon didn’t present a compelling case that mail-in balloting should be suspended in place of in-person voting. It noted that while the COVID-19 infection rate at the Bessemer facility was 2.88%, lower than 5% in the surrounding county, the regional director of the NLRB was right to call for a mail-in ballot based on an earlier decision at a hospital in Michigan.
The union seeking to represent 1,500 of the 5,800 workers at the facility, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, contends that Amazon is underreporting the positivity rate.
“Once again Amazon workers have won another fight in their effort to win a union voice,” said Stuart Applebaum, president of the RWDSU, in a statement. “Amazon’s blatant disregard for the health and safety of its own workforce was demonstrated yet again by its insistence for an in-person election in the middle of the pandemic. Today’s decision proves that it’s long past time that Amazon start respecting its own employees; and allow them to cast their votes without intimidation and interference.”
A pro-union vote would let the employees in the group collectively bargain over various aspects of their jobs, including safety standards, training, breaks and pay. Amazon argues that its workers are well paid, above prevailing rates, have good benefits and are well-treated. A number of expose reports quoting current and former Amazon employees have detailed alleged grueling and dangerous working conditions at its fulfilment centers, which the company again refutes.