Staff at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama will have a second chance to vote on unionization, reigniting a fight that has garnered national attention.
A regional director of the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ordered the e-commerce giant to again hold employee elections in the company’s warehouse in Bessemer.
In April, workers rejected the unionization proposal by a two-to-one margin.
However, in August, the NLRB said Amazon interfered with the election process.
“Today’s decision confirms what we’ve always said: Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a say if they wanted a union in the workplace,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union ( RWDSU), he said in a statement.
While the vote is a big win for union supporters, it’s not the news Amazon wanted to hear. A company spokesperson said in a written statement: “It is disappointing that the NLRB has decided that those votes shouldn’t count.”
A new date for the vote has yet to be announced.
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The election once again puts Amazon, the second largest private employer in the United States, in the hotspot.
Union membership has steadily declined in the United States over the past few decades, but the pandemic has reignited concerns about income inequality and worker safety, with Amazon attracting much of public scrutiny.
The company recently faced fierce union campaigns in New York and Canada.
Ahead of the first vote in Bessemer, US President Joe Biden called the election a “choice of vital importance”. National Democratic celebrities and politicians traveled to the state to support the union campaign, which also garnered the support of Republicans.
What was the quarrel about?
RWDSU leaders had hoped that the pandemic, which rocketed Amazon’s business by exposing its workers to new health risks, would create an opportunity for the union to break through and set a new standard for workers in Amazon across the country.
Organizers linked the fight in Bessemer – where most of the nearly 6,000 workers are black – to broader issues of civil rights and racial justice and cited complaints, such as intrusive monitoring and brusque, impersonal treatment by management.
In the end, Amazon definitely won the vote, which it attributed to the workers by favoring “a direct connection with their managers and the company”.
However, the union complained that employees had been pressured to leave ballot papers in a mailbox that was in sight of Amazon’s camera, creating the perception of surveillance.
If successful, the union initiative will mean that the company must negotiate with union officials on issues such as labor rules and pay.
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