Technology

Amazon Union vote in Alabama favors opponents for now

Union supporters narrowly trailed opponents in a union election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, the National Labor Relations Board said on Thursday. But the tally was much closer than a vote at the same warehouse last year when workers rejected the union by a more than 2-to-1 ratio.

The union had 875 votes in favor to 993 against, but the more than 400 contested ballots are enough to potentially affect the outcome. The challenges will be resolved at a hearing of the working committee in the coming weeks.

A total of approximately 2,300 votes were cast by more than 6,100 eligible employees in the election in Bessemer, Alabama.

The revote, mailed from early February to late March, was ordered by the Labor Department after it concluded that Amazon had breached the so-called laboratory conditions that should apply to a union election.

“Regardless of the end result, the workers here have shown what’s possible,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which was trying to organize the workers. “You helped spark a movement.”

In a video conference with reporters after the vote count, Mr Appelbaum said organizing in Bessemer helped spark union campaigns at other companies, such as REI and Starbucks, and in other parts of the country.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

The Labor Board is also counting the votes in another high-profile election at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island. At the end of the first day of Thursday’s count, 57 percent of the voters voted in favor of being represented by the Amazon Labor Union and 43 percent opposed. The NLRB said the count should be complete on Friday.

Workers who supported the union in Bessemer cited frustrations over low wages, inadequate breaks and overly aggressive productivity targets. Amazon has said its pay — just under $16 an hour for full-time entry-level workers — is competitive for the region. It has also pointed to a benefits package it says is attractive, including full health care benefits for full-time employees once they join the company. The company has stated that its performance targets reflect safety considerations and individual employee experience.

Several workers who supported the union said colleagues were generally less afraid to question management or show their union support this year than they were during last year’s election. “People are asking more questions,” said Jennifer Bates, a staffer who led organizing both last year and this year, in an interview this month. “More employees are standing up and speaking out.”

The union also cited key differences in their approach to the recent elections. Last year the union limited in-person organizing efforts over Covid-19 safety concerns, but this time their organizers visited workers at home. Other unions sent organizers to Alabama to support these efforts.

Workers also seemed to be more active in organizing within the plant. They wore union T-shirts to go to work twice a week to show their support, and one group submitted a petition with more than 100 signatures to managers complaining of inadequate breaks and breakroom facilities .

Still, Amazon retained advantages, not the least of which was high employee turnover, which made it difficult for organizers to maintain momentum as dissatisfied workers simply left their jobs.

The company also appears to have invested heavily in its efforts to dissuade employees from supporting the union, hiring consultants and holding more than 20 anti-union meetings with employees a day before the postal ballot was sent out in early February. in one Submission to the employment office Released Thursday, Amazon announced that it spent more than $4 million on employment counselors last year. How much it has spent on consultants this year has yet to be disclosed.

Union supporters accused Amazon of barring them from meetings to quell criticism and rejection, but Amazon denied the allegation.

The tally released on Thursday was consistent with a broader trend in repeat elections, in which unions have lost more than half since 2010.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/31/technology/amazon-union-election-alabama.html Amazon Union vote in Alabama favors opponents for now

Mike Fahey

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