A new phase of the historic union vote by Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, begins today. The news kicks off with an appeal hearing where the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) will contest the results of the election.
“Things are not over yet,” said Veena Dubal, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings. “We all need to keep paying attention to this part.”
Earlier this year, after months of campaigning to break unions, workers 1,798 to 738 voted against forming a union. The decision was hailed as a crushing blow to the labor movement. But experts say the elections would always be fiercely contested. Even if RWDSU had won, Amazon would almost certainly have contested the results and the lawsuit would still have been appealed.
That was not clear from the media coverage, which treated the elections as the top of the labor movement. “I think it’s fair to say there were very few people working who thought this was going to be a win,” said Dubal.
The testimony begins Monday, with RWDSU presenting evidence on each of its 23 objections. These range from Amazon installing a ballot box in the warehouse (allegedly giving the illusion that it controlled the vote) to threatening employees with pay cuts.
If RWDSU is successful, there will probably be another election, Bloomberg reports. But regardless of the outcome, Dubal says the campaign has already managed to raise awareness. “The role played by the Bessemer drive was, in part, a campaign to gain attention and a way to get America to look at the conditions in these warehouses,” she says. “It was still a very, very important driver, representing a cultural shift in people thinking and talking about Amazon.”
The campaign also exposed Amazon’s tactics to destroy unions – typical of many companies – such as bombarding workers with anti-union messages and requiring them to attend rallies. “Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to spotlight its own employees,” RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement, saying The edge Reported previously. “We will not leave Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities unchallenged.”
Many of the tactics Amazon used are legal under current employment laws. While the National Labor Relations Act is designed to protect workers’ rights to organize, companies rarely face significant consequences for the breakdown of unions.
That could change if the Protection of the Right to Organize Act (also known as the PRO Act) is passed. The legislation would prohibit companies from keeping a captive audience and would impose fines on those who violate workers’ rights.
Dubal says that’s partly why the appeal hearing matters. “It is imperative that we continue to pay attention to this,” she says. “It’s a learning moment. We learn what is legal and illegal. We learn what companies do to suppress organizing. This should be common knowledge so that we understand why a law like the PRO Act is so important. ”