Bessemer, Alabama warehouse workers will have a second chance in a union election, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled. He found that Amazon shot himself in the foot interfering with the election, even beyond his considerable influence to influence workers.
This spring, after Amazon warehouse workers voted 1,798 to 738 against unionizing in retail, wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the RWDSU filed 23 objections alleging that Amazon improperly interfered in the election. In August, an NLRB hearing officer OK that Amazon had violated employment law, mainly because of the infamous mailbox, ostensibly to facilitate postal voting. NLRB Regional Director Lisa Henderson confirmed the decision today.
Considering its considerable benefits – vast resources and non-stop, unwavering attention from workers – Amazon’s epic trial and error is pretty mind-boggling. NLRB specifically said Amazon not to install things like “passage boxes” which, of course, belonged to the employer. And yet, Amazon then delegated the USPS to set up a mailbox in the parking lot, in full view of security cameras, and placed a suggestive tent around it and hung a banner reading “SPEAK FOR YOURSELF. ! SEND YOUR NEWSLETTER HERE. Emails later revealed that Amazon had asked the USPS to modify the box as it saw fit.
The RWDSU had objected that the tent and box looked a lot like an employer-run polling station, giving the impression that Amazon could monitor the outcome of the election and track the identity of voters, and that the message in the tent was called an election campaign. The NLRB agreed.
L’Union also alleged that Amazon threatened to lay off 75% of its workforce and close its warehouses if workers unionized. An Amazon spokesperson denied this in an email to Gizmodo in April, and the union withdrew the objection. But this hypothetical threat could help explain the radical shift in support from the union’s initial claim that 3,000 workers – more than half of the 5,800 working at Bessemer – initially signed cards in favor of holding a union. ‘elections.
Amazon also introduced costly anti-union practices consultants, held meetings with a captive audience and reportedly photographed workers’ badges if they spoke. Workers received an avalanche of text messages, emails and letters containing anti-union messages. They spent their days in overheated warehouses surrounded by flyers implying that they would lose their pay if they unionized and, if they watched Twitch, they might see the ads featuring coworkers. This is all legal.
In a statement shared with Gizmodo, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said that “[i]It’s disappointing that the NLRB has now decided that those votes shouldn’t count. Nantel generally reiterated Amazon’s anti-union stance but did not respond to the NLRB’s specific finding that the company denied workers a fair election.
The date of the elections has not yet been announced. Read the full decision, along with responses to Amazon’s apology, here: