The vote count is set to begin in an election to determine whether Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Ala., Will form a union in what is considered one of the biggest and most important organizing drives of recent American history.
The competition pitted the American labor movement – backed by a slew of Democratic politicians and some Republicans – against one of the most powerful corporations in the world.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will start counting the votes to see if Bessemer workers form a union with the Wholesale Retailers and Department Stores Union (RWDSU). If successful, the warehouse would be Amazon’s first union in the United States, as many Amazon workers in Europe are already unionized.
“This campaign has already been a victory in many ways. While we don’t know how the vote will play out, we believe we have opened the door for more organizing across the country, and we have exposed employers’ efforts to crush their employees by trying to gain a union voice, ” Said Stuart Appelbaum, President of RWDSU. “This campaign has become the best example of why we need labor law reform in this country.”
About 5,800 employees were eligible to vote in the election, with a majority of those who voted to determine the outcome.
The results might take some time to finally be counted and the process might be legally burdened. The NLRB said it would not have an estimate of how long it would take to count the votes until the count begins. The union estimates that it will take about a week to get results.
During the count, the union and Amazon will have the opportunity to challenge the veracity of the ballots and file objections within five business days of the count.
Results could also be delayed if enough disputed ballots are disputed to affect the outcome of the election, at which point an NLRB hearing officer will determine whether a disputed ballot will be counted.
Amazon has vigorously opposed organizing efforts at the Bessemer warehouse, encouraging workers to vote ‘no’ in the election through posters, signs, mailings, a website, texts, commercials, captive audience meetings and hire union avoidance consultants at nearly $ 10,000 a day. before the elections. Under the Pro Act, a labor law reform bill backed by Democrats and unions in the United States, employers would be prohibited from forcing workers to attend captive court meetings, and fines would be considerably increased for violations of labor law.
The union campaign received support from unions and organizations in the Bessemer region and the United States. Several members of Congress have visited the organizing site in recent weeks to show their support for the workers.
“This election is important because it is the start of the fight against inadequate working conditions,” said Eric Hall, founder of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Birmingham, Alabama, which has supported organizing efforts and participated in rallies to gain community support for workers. .
It is estimated that 85% of Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer are black.
“Birmingham is a city known for its strong stand for civil rights. His people have led a rebellion against racism and Jim Crow, and in this current movement it is the great and great grandchildren who fight against the injustices of today, fight against the rich and powerful, fight against racism systemic, fight against economic and social injustices, ”said Hall.
According to RWDSU, hundreds of Amazon workers across the United States contacted the union during the Alabama organizing drive with interests to begin organizing unions in their workplaces.
As Alabama’s union election ended, Amazon executives increasingly attacked their critics, with recent battles on social media from Amazon CEO Dave Clark and Amazon communications team against Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Mark Pocan.
According to Recode, the tweets came after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos expressed dismay that executives were not pushing back criticism of the company enough.
Shortly after Amazon’s public relations account said employees urinating in bottles due to their inability to take bathroom breaks during shifts are fake, The Intercept reported leaks. emails and memos in which Amazon management discussed issues with delivery drivers urinating in plastic bottles and defecating in plastic bags.
An Amazon spokesperson said in an email, “We don’t think RWDSU represents the majority of the opinions of our employees. Our employees choose to work at Amazon because we offer some of the best jobs available wherever we hire, and we encourage everyone to compare our total compensation, health benefits, and work environment to any other company with jobs. similar. ”