Amazon Workers Will Likely Get Another Chance to Unionize in Alabama

All thanks to an unauthorized collection box.

Jay Reeves/AP

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Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, who tried unsuccessfully to unionize earlier this year, will likely have another shot at a union election thanks to an order by a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. The order said the company acted with “flagrant disregard” for certain policies that keep elections fair.

In April, after an aggressive anti-union campaign from Amazon, warehouse workers in Bessemer overwhelmingly voted not to authorize a union. As my colleague Noah Lanard wrote at the time, people voted not to unionize in part because Amazon provided relatively solid wages and benefits in economically depressed areas. But that wasn’t the only reason:

On top of those economic realities, Amazon fought unionization at every turn. It forced employees to attend anti-union meetings on company time, hired union-busting consultants, sent out barrages of texts urging workers to vote no, and launched a website called doitwithoutdues.com.

All of that is legal. We live in a country long wedded to union busting. But one of Amazon’s actions crossed a line.

During the election, Amazon had the Postal Service install a post office in the parking lot to make voting in the union election “convenient, safe and private.” Labor organizers disagreed, arguing that the box’s location near a security camera—and inside of an Amazon-branded tent—tainted the election. The regional NLRB agreed and granted a do-over.

“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along—that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace,” Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union—which the Amazon voters were voting to join—said in a statement. “Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union.”

Amazon can still appeal the decision, and a union win in a second vote is far from certain.

Read the full decision here.

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