Public vote counting begins for the Amazon union in Alabama

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has begun publicly counting votes for a proposed Amazon workers’ union in Alabama, which would be the first of its kind in the entire country. The count, conducted through Zoom, may not include all potentially eligible ballots, but it provides an early look at the results.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced yesterday that 3,215 ballots have been received from the approximately 5,800 employees of BHM1, a fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama.

Amazon employees in Bessemer cast their votes by mail in February and March, and the official counting process began on March 30. Representatives can challenge the voting rights of individual employees, and those ballots are not counted during this count – but they can qualify later and potentially affect the outcome of the election.

BHM1 opened in March last year, and the union’s efforts began to take shape not long after. Employees were frustrated by the company’s strict and automatically enforced productivity metrics, grueling work pace, and atmosphere that many describe as inhumane and disrespectful. Amazon has been criticized for these issues across the country. Last month, it further fueled controversy by falsely denying that workplace standards caused employees to pee in water bottles instead of taking a bathroom break.

A group contacted the RWDSU, which represented workers at nearby poultry factories and other businesses. In November, organizers had collected enough signatures to petition NLRB for an election held by mail due to the pandemic. The vote began in early February and ended on Monday, March 29.

Amazon always has fierce resistance unionization: tracking workplaces for signs of organization, contracting with union advisers and laid-off workers who protest against working conditions. While some of the company’s warehouses are united in Europe, where labor laws make organizing much easier, only one other warehouse in the US even voted in favor of BHM1, and that was just a small group of 30 repair technicians in a Delaware. Stockroom. And they lost

The BHM1 drive, on the other hand, is huge: about 5,800 employees. It’s not just the largest union voice on Amazon. It would be the largest group of workers represented in the US three decades, a major victory for the organized workers after years of decline.

Amazon aggressively fought the effort, advertising heavily, hosting mandatory anti-union rallies, and sending workers multiple text messages a day. It opposed holding the ballot by mail, and it pushed the US Postal Service To install a letterbox near the warehouse just before the start of the vote, a move of the labor organizers may have affected the votes and be a cause for challenge if they lose.

The company even had the county change the timing at a traffic light leaving the warehouse’s parking lot – a measure Amazon says was intended to ease congestion during shift changes, but organizers say is a key location for recruiting. employees. “I’ve never seen Amazon fight for anything like this. I’ve never seen them push so hard, ”an old Amazon employee said earlier The edge

Amazon has opposed the efforts of the Amazon union at every step so far, and it will have even more opportunities to do so. Employers often shy away from negotiating a first contract, sometimes for years, trying to outlast the workers who have pushed it and discourage others from organizing. If Amazon goes this route, organizers will likely have to use protests, political pressure and other measures to get Amazon to negotiate.

Elsewhere in Amazon, too, attention will be paid to labor activism. For years, organizing at Amazon warehouses consisted mainly of informal protests. While occasionally achieving victories on specific issues, such as change time-off policy or to restore redundant workers, the Bessemer vote shows that union organization offers a possible way to capture more sustainable improvements. The RWDSU recently said it has been contacted by more than one 1,000 Amazon employees interested in uniting a union since the beginning of the BHM1 campaign.