The union seeking to organize Amazon fulfillment center workers in Bessemer, AL, has filed another complaint alleging the company is not acting in good faith by interfering in the revote process, forcing employees to attend anti-union meetings and tearing down pro-union signs.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) said it is filing unfair labor practice charges against Amazon with the National Labor Relations Board, on behalf of the BAmazon Union local it’s backing there. The union’s similar action in 2021 led the NLRB to invalidate a vote that went 6-1 in Amazon’s favor, which led to this year’s revote. It began on Feb. 4 and continues through March 28.
“All the charges highlight examples of Amazon’s continued efforts to undermine and suppress workers’ right to a free and fair election,” the RWDSU said in a statement. “Despite the adversity, workers of the BAmazon Union continue to fight to ensure their democratic rights at work are respected and Amazon is held accountable for its outrageous behavior.”
The RWDSU is alleging Amazon removed pro-union literature from employee break rooms, which had been posted alongside “anti-union postings from the company,” claiming it’s a violation of labor law. Amazon also allegedly issued a new rule limiting employee access inside the building to 30 minutes before and after their shift, crimping their organizing activity.
Lastly, Amazon is again mandating employee attendance at so-called “captive audience meetings” during work hours “to hear the company’s anti-union propaganda … violating their right to refrain from any or all such activities.”
“Being forced to attend the captive audience anti-union trainings was degrading,” said Roger Wyatt, a BAmazon union organizing committee member and associate at the facility, in a statement. “Amazon treated us like mindless robots, downloading misinformation to us. And the irony is, these meetings are the longest I’ve ever gotten to sit at work.”
Alabama is not Amazon’s only labor union brush fire stateside. Last week, the NLRB ordered a union vote to be held between March 25-28 for an Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, NY. An independent group called the Amazon Labor Union, which initially withdrew its application, is behind that effort. It’s led by a former associate who claims he was terminated because of his organizing activity.
The union scuffles with Amazon could conceivably push on past 2022 into 2023, with challenges to votes on either side, depending on the outcome. With union membership in the U.S. in the single digits, its influence on the wane, the labor situation so tight and costs already sky high across retail and ecommerce operations, a lot is riding on it.
Unions may have failed thus far to gain a foothold at Amazon workplaces here, but they have had much greater success in Europe, where workers for the ecommerce giant have organized in France, Italy, Spain and Germany.