Amazon Union elections stall as hundreds of ballots contested

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After the vote The count was announced Thursday, with the outcome of an election to unionize Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, still hanging in the balance. The count is 993 votes against unionization and 875 votes for; however, 416 ballots remain contested, mostly on the basis of voter eligibility.

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The National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing in the next few weeks to determine whether any of the contested ballots should be counted. After that, he will publish the final tally, which will determine which party wins the election.

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Meanwhile, the Amazon Labor Union is leading the Staten Island warehouse union election, which is expected to end tomorrow.

Elections were held again in March after the union lost an initial vote of 1,798 to 738 last year, and Later it turned out that Amazon violated labor laws. by setting up a mailbox in their premises and using “Vote No” merchandise to interview employees.

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The gap between the yes and no votes has narrowed significantly this year, but not yet enough to change the outcome. Some 2,300 of the 6,100 eligible voters voted this year, with a 38 percent turnout. This is less than last year, when turnout was 52 percent.

The union has filed allegations of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board and has until April 7 to file objections to the election. If the board decides that Amazon’s behavior interfered with a free and fair election, it could reverse the results again, leading to a third round of the election. The allegations include allegations that Amazon introduced a rule change restricting workers’ access to the facility after hours and that it removed pro-union flyers from break rooms. The company denies these claims.

The vote count completes a two-year process that has attracted congressman Attention, celebrity approval, and presidential a statement, and a new focus on US labor laws that favor employers in union elections. It echoed far beyond one warehouse. As one of the largest employers in the world and the second largest in the US, Amazon is regarded as a setter of working conditions standards in various industries. Many in the labor movement see unionization as vital to curbing what they call a harsh work environment. Amazon, for its part, has urged its employees to vote against the union, saying it already offers whatever the workers demand.

In a statement about the Bessemer venture, which Amazon calls “BHM1,” company spokesperson Kelly Nantel wrote: “We invest in both pay and benefits for our team – BHM1 full-time employees earn at least $15.80 dollars an hour and have access to health care. leaving on the first day, 401k with a company match, and more.”

The effort began modestly enough. In 2020, a warehouse worker named Darryl Richardson, who was previously a union member at an auto plant, did a Google search for a union that could represent Amazon workers. The results showed the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), so he filled out a form on his website.

The discovery of BHM1 in 2020 coincided with the start of the US lockdown caused by the pandemic. As Amazon’s key employees continued to report on their work, and the company’s executives began to richersome said that the company did not notify them of indoor Covid-19 infections. Colored workers, disproportionately represented in the mainstream workforce, bore the brunt of the risk. This was evident in the Bessemer warehouse, where more than 80 percent of the workers are black.

Nantel said the company has invested $15 billion in Covid-19 safety measures since the start of the pandemic and is reporting new cases to employees, tracing contacts and alerting local health authorities.

At Bessemer, employees criticized the Time Off Task (TOT) system, which tracks every second a worker doesn’t scan a barcode, including bathroom breaks, and interrupts them if they accumulate too much TOT. Workers complained about unpredictable schedules and minimal breaks during grueling 10-hour shifts. With the app logging their every scan, cameras sweeping the warehouse, random security checks at the warehouse exit, and cops patrolling the area after hours, some workers felt they were under increased surveillance. Jennifer Bates, an outspoken worker and union organizing committee member, has complained about wasting her unpaid time off doing random security checks.

“Like most companies, we have expectations about how our people perform, but we don’t require them to meet certain speeds or performance goals,” Nantel wrote. “We want all employees to stay focused on their assigned tasks and work safely, and to take time, when necessary, to communicate with their manager, seek help or discuss obstacles they face.”

While RWDSU has not yet won a victory at Amazon, it has “had a lot of organizing campaigns that many larger unions probably wouldn’t have taken on,” says John Logan, a professor of labor studies at San Francisco State University. “This is one of them.” He cites successful campaigns at H&M and Zara stores in New York and Southern poultry farms, where employer resistance tends to be fierce. The union financed the original Amazon campaign without the help of its parent union, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which, along with other unions, facilitated a rerun of the campaign. Ten years ago UFCW launched a big and expensive campaign to unionize Walmart this faced fierce opposition from the company, and ultimately failed to add a single due-paying member. He subsequently elected a president who promised to take a more pragmatic approach.

Amazon, like Walmart before it, launched its own intense anti-union campaign, bringing in high-priced union prevention consultants to search the warehouse and run round-the-clock anti-union sessions known as captive audience meetings. According to some of the workers present, many of their theses seemed misleading. For example, the company often told workers that they could get more, the same, or less after negotiating with unions, which left many workers worried about losing their wages and benefits, especially in a state like Alabama, where Amazon’s starting salary is more than two times higher. minimal salary. What Amazon didn’t mention is that U.S. union workers earn more on average than non-union workers — up 17% last year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. The company also failed to mention that a majority of union members would have to ratify the contract, which is unlikely if it comes with a pay cut.

“Whether or not to join a union is the choice of our employees. It has always been like this, ”Nantel wrote before summing up. “If the union vote is passed, it will affect everyone at the site, which is why we hold regular information sessions and give employees the opportunity to ask questions and learn about what this could mean for them and their daily lives at work. Amazon”.

Workers say the company also told them that RWDSU is a business that wants to make money to buy expensive cars. In fact, the union is non-profit. “It’s a little hypocritical of Amazon when they are a literal business that is looking for profit,” says one worker in Bessemer, who heard the phrase in an audience meeting and immediately thought of the privileges enjoyed by members of the company’s board.

Among its allegations of unfair labor practices, RWDSU challenged the legality of audience meetings. In doing so, the union hopes to create a new precedent. In the fall, National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo issued a memorandum calling for cases challenging the legality of assemblies to be heard.

With last year’s lopsided defeat, the union had a steep mountain to climb. Bloomberg law analysis of federal labor council data found that unions have won 55 per cent of re-elections since 2012. However, many of them involved smaller units and by smaller margins than the original Bessemer explosion.

In addition to the results, the campaign increased control over working conditions in Amazon warehouses and sparked interest in unionizing other businesses. Newly elected Teamsters president Sean O’Brien vowed to compete with Amazon. promising a more aggressive stance than his predecessor’s during this month’s speech. Staten Island’s second election concludes this week, with a third scheduled for the smaller Staten Island warehouse in April.

One Tennessee worker, who asked not to be named, shared a photo from his warehouse of a Voice of the Associate board where workers can write reviews. Between complaints about unpaid leave and a lack of parking spaces, one worker scribbled what he must have seen as a solution on the list of complaints: “We demand union representation.”

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