Early Counts Show Amazon Defeating Historic Labor Vote, But Union Plans Challenge
Early vote counts at the Bessemer, Ala., warehouse have at least 1,608 workers voting against the union, with only 696 in favor, The New York Times reported. There are still hundreds of ballots left to be counted, but they’re not enough to deliver a win for the union.
The vote of more than 5,800 workers to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) was the largest U.S. labor dispute between the notoriously anti-union Amazon and its workers.
It received broad support from politicians on both sides of the aisle, and many thought a successful outcome could spur other retailers and Amazon warehouse workers to unionize.
However, the RWDSU plans to file an objection to the count, after it accused Amazon of waging an “intensive anti-union campaign” to shoot down the vote.
“Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, said in a statement. “We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote.”
In a statement, Amazon said that its workers heard more “anti-Amazon messages” and denied claims that it intimidated its staff to vote against the union.
“It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true,” a spokesperson for Amazon said in a statement. “Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us. And Amazon didn’t win — our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union.”
The RWDSU claimed that Amazon forced employees to listen to anti-union lectures, brought in dozens of “union-busters” to walk the floor of the warehouse, posted signs dissuading people from voting for the union all over the facility, and sent numerous emails and texts to workers.
RWDSU also blasted Amazon’s decision to install a USPS drop box outside the Bessemer warehouse before the union vote started and removed it shortly after the vote ended. Since workers could drop off ballots in the box, RWDSU claimed it gave the impression Amazon was holding the vote.
“Even though the [National Labor Relations Board] definitively denied Amazon’s request for a dropbox on the warehouse property, Amazon felt it was above the law and worked with the postal service anyway to install one,” Applebaum said. “They did this because it provided a clear ability to intimidate workers.”
Even though Amazon warehouses in other countries like Germany have unions, Amazon has been able to avoid one forming in the United States.
Amazon argued that unions create a barrier between the company and its workers, and that Amazon already offers salaries well above the minimum wage.
“We opened this site in March 2020 and since that time have created more than 6,000 full-time jobs in Bessemer, with starting pay of $15.30 per hour, including full healthcare, vision and dental insurance, 50 percent 401(K) match from the first day on the job; in safe, innovative, inclusive environments, with training, continuing education, and long-term career growth,” an Amazon spokesperson previously told CO. “We work hard to support our teams and more than 90 percent of associates at our Bessemer site say they would recommend Amazon as a good place to work to their friends. We don’t believe the RWDSU represents the majority of our employees’ views.”
Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from Amazon.