Amazon Survives Drive to Unionize Plant in Alabama

April 9, 2021 by Dan McCue
A banner encouraging workers to vote in labor balloting is shown at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves, File)

Amazon appears to have enough votes to thwart an effort to unionize its warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. 

By Friday afternoon, the company had crossed the threshold to secure a majority of votes, with 1,700 warehouse workers voting against the union and 700 voting in favor.

A total of 3,215 ballots were cast by eligible voters in the election, with a majority of votes, or 1,608, needed to win. 

About 500 ballots were contested, largely by Amazon, the union said. Those ballots were not counted.

Once the count of all cast votes is complete, the results will still need to be certified by federal officials.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which led the drive, blamed its defeat on what it said were Amazon’s anti-union tactics before and during the voting, which was conducted from early February through the end of last month.

“Our system is broken,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the union’s president, in a statement. “Amazon took full advantage of that, and we will be calling on the labor board to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a longtime advocate for labor unions, said Friday that he was disappointed but not surprised by the vote.

“It is extraordinarily courageous for workers to take on one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful corporations, a company that spent unlimited sums of money to defeat the organizing effort,” Sanders said. “It also appears that some of Amazon’s anti-union efforts may have been in violation of NLRB law. And that is something that the union is addressing with the NLRB right now.”

Writing for PaydayReport.com, a pro-union publication, senior labor reporter Mike Elk wrote that in his interviews with workers at the facility, he found most workers weren’t so much anti-union, it was just that they felt they didn’t know enough about unions to choose to support one.

“This union failed to form a strong organizing committee that had a real plan to show how the union worked prior to the election,” Elk wrote. 

He said the organizing committee at the site should have highlighted and explained how it had already been making gains for workers there, including standing up for those facing unfair discipline.

The vote is not the end of Amazon’s labor woes.

Earlier this week, workers at an Amazon delivery station on the South Side of Chicago walked off the graveyard shift, chanting “stop megacycle.”

“Megacycle” is Amazon’s 10-and-a-half-hour graveyard shift, that runs from roughly 1:20 a.m. to 11:50 a.m., and has been rolled out across the United States over the past year.

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