Amazon defeats union drive but is accused of interfering with vote
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Amazon Fulfilment Centre

Amazon has been accused of acting illegally to secure its landmark victory against workers’ attempts to form the company’s first unionised warehouse in the United States.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) is claiming the e-commerce giant interfered with the right of its Bessemer, Alabama employees to vote in a free and fair election; a right protected under section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.

The union said it will present evidence to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that Amazon created an atmosphere of confusion, coercion, and fear of reprisals that unlawfully interfered with the protected right of employees to engage in union activity.

Amazon denies the claims that followed a bitterly contested campaign that results in 3,041 mail ballots received by the NLRB out of a possible 5,876 Bessemer warehouse workers, a voter turnout of about 55%.

The final vote tally saw 1,798 votes against unionising compared to 738 votes in favour of a union, representing less than 13% of total employees in the Alabama fulfilment centre.

There were 76 void and 505 challenged ballets. The parties now have five business days to file objections contesting the conduct or results of the election.

We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception, and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges

Amazon, which is the second-largest private employer in the US after Walmart, with around 1 million employees, has been accused by the RWDSU of requiring all Bessemer-based employees to attend lectures filled with anti-union messaging.

The union has also taken issue with an alleged misinformation campaign by the multinational technology company through traditional media outlets and on social media.

It was reported that Amazon had recruited company “ambassadors” to defend it and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, from criticism on Twitter and push back against unionisation arguments.

An unknown number of “fake” employee Twitter accounts, often starting with the “AmazonFC” handle, emerged in the weeks before the historic union vote and appeared to counter criticism of working conditions at the company.

Amazon didn’t win – our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union

In a statement, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, said Amazon had left “no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees”.

“We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception, and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote.”

A statement issued by Amazon said: “It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true.

“Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us. And Amazon didn’t win – our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union.”

The NLRB is reportedly considering whether to consolidate multiple complaints alleging Amazon interfered with attempts by workers to organise or form a union.

Earlier this week, the NLRB found that Amazon had illegally fired two employees who circulating a petition calling for better working conditions during the pandemic.

Last week, workers back by trade union Verdi at six Amazon sites in Germany went on a four-day strike in protests over pay and working conditions.

Research from the Economic Policy Institute shows that the share of workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement fell from 27% in 1979 to 11.6% in 2019.

Appelbaum called for an investigation into the company’s “corrupting” behaviour on the Alabama election. “Amazon’s behaviour during the election cannot be ignored and our union will seek remedy to each and every improper action Amazon took.

“We won’t rest until workers’ voices are heard fairly under the law. When they are, we believe they will be victorious in this historic and critical fight to unionise the first Amazon warehouse in the United States.”