The union organizing effort at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, appears headed for defeat after the first day of counting ballots. There were 3,215 votes, with the count standing at 1,100 against unionizing to 463 in favor. Voting ended March 29, but before the counting began, hundreds of ballots were challenged, most by the company. If those could be decisive, they will be revisited.
But on the day counting began, we learned more about how far Amazon went to stack the deck in its favor. The National Labor Relations Board had refused Amazon’s request to have a ballot drop box in the facility, citing coronavirus social distancing precautions. But documents obtained by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union through Freedom of Information Act requests show that Amazon defied that by going to the U.S. Postal Service and asking for a mailbox to be installed on Amazon property—which it was, unmarked, the day before voting started.
BREAKING: Amazon has defeated the unionization attempt in Bessemer, AL. Of the 3,215 ballots cast, over half have now been counted as against unionization.
— Ezra Kaplan (@EzraNBC) April 9, 2021
One critique of the campaign and the decision to press forward to an election after Amazon successfully expanded the bargaining unit involved in the vote from around 1500 workers to all 5800 in the warehouse:
Want to correct below per @rustbeltjacobin point. Not that the **campaign** vs Amazon should not have been tried—that must be ongoing. But the **board election** as a move in that ongoing campaign could have been postponed—the union can pull its petition—when defeat is certain. https://t.co/6PcT2er9Ak
— Richard Yeselson (@yeselson) April 9, 2021
— Dave Jamieson (@jamieson) April 9, 2021
“We have not heard anything back on the install of this collection box,” a Postal Service account manager emailed Postal Service workers in Alabama on Jan. 14. “Amazon is reaching out again to me today about the status as they wanted to move quickly on this.”
Those emails directly contradict a Postal Service spokesman’s claim that the mailbox was “suggested by the Postal Service as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point.”
”Even though the NLRB definitively denied Amazon’s request for a drop box on the warehouse property, Amazon felt it was above the law and worked with the postal service anyway to install one,” RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement. “They did this because it provided a clear ability to intimidate workers.”
When the mailbox was installed, journalist Kim Kelly and More Perfect Union showed exactly why it functioned to intimidate workers:
As we documented with @GrimKim, Amazon had the ballot dropbox installed in violation of explicit guidance from the federal government.
The box is installed the evening of Feb 9th, late at night, under cover of darkness.pic.twitter.com/6Eypmu886u
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) April 8, 2021
Assuming the vote counting continues as it has begun, this will become the basis for a challenge by the union. It was, of course, only one of a string of intimidation strategies and efforts to rig the vote in Amazon’s favor—most of which were allowed under current U.S. labor law. So much of what’s happened in Bessemer is a case study in why we need the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, but also in why big business is so determined to keep U.S. labor law weak and tilted in favor of management.
Published with permission of Daily Kos