NLRB Official: Set Aside Amazon Union Vote Results
The official found widespread rule breaking by Amazon during the election
In April votes were counted in the highly contested union election between Amazon and the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union (RWDSU) in Bessemer, Alabama. The vote took place by mail over the previous few months and was highly contentious with the union alleging numerous violations of labor law.
The case ended up going before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) where RWDSU alleged that Amazon’s conduct in the lead up to the election prevented "a free and uncoerced exercise of choice by the employees." The case was brought before a hearing officer, who released their findings on Monday. In their report the hearing officer said that they found evidence to sustain the unions argument “that the Employer’s conduct interfered with the laboratory conditions necessary to conduct a fair election.” The officer went on to say that the conduct which interfered with the result of the election “relates to the Employer’s polling of employees by distribution of vote no paraphernalia in the presence of supervisors and managers (Objection 11), as well as the Employer’s unilateral decision to cause the United States Postal Service (USPS or Postal Service) to install a generic unlabeled mail collection box less than 50 feet from the main entrance to its facility, at a location suggested by the Employer and immediately beneath the visible surveillance cameras mounted on the Employer’s main entrance (Objections 1-4, 6 and 17).”
The mailbox was the main complaint from the union. They said that after the NLRB ruled that the election would be conducted by mail, to protect workers from COVID, Amazon convinced the local post office to place a mailbox right in the middle of the property so that workers could drop off their ballots at work. However, the company had the only key to the mailbox and the box was under constant surveillance from Amazon. The union was able to successfully argue that this violated the intent of the NLRB decision on drop boxes and broke the “laboratory” conditions the election was supposed to take place under. “It is clear that absent the tent, employees had reason to believe that the Employer could observe which employees accessed the CBU and/or used the box to deposit ballots,” the report reads. “Employees believed that the Employer had cameras that were tracking, at the very least, which employees entered the CBU tent.” Based on the conduct of the company, the hearing officer recommended that the results of the election be thrown out and a new election held.
“Throughout the NLRB hearing, we heard compelling evidence how Amazon tried to illegally interfere with and intimidate workers as they sought to exercise their right to form a union,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “We support the hearing officer’s recommendation that the NLRB set aside the election results and direct a new election. As President Biden reminded us earlier this year, the question of whether or not to have a union is supposed to be the workers’ decision and not the employer’s. Amazon’s behavior throughout the election process was despicable. Amazon cheated, they got caught, and they are being held accountable.”
Both sides will now have five days to file exceptions and any new supporting briefs before the Acting Regional Director issues a final decision. If the Acting Regional Director upholds the hearing officer’s recommendations, they could order a new election at the Bessemer warehouse. A new vote would throw an interesting twist into the campaign to organize Amazon. In June, the Teamsters came out with a plan to begin a national campaign to organize the e-commerce giant. Plus, the election in Bessemer wasn’t close, with the union losing by a margin of more than 2-1. It is also unclear how many of the workers who supported the union are still at the warehouse since Amazon often has a near 100% turnover rate, meaning RWDSU is likely facing another David vs Goliath fight to organize Bessemer.