A federal labor board official in the United States found that Amazon illegally intervened in the union vote held at its Bessemer, Alabama warehouse. The findings released on Monday, August 2, were passed by the hearing officer of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) who found that the company interfered in the workers’ right to organize, nearly four months after the votes were counted. The officer also recommended that the results of the vote be scrapped and a new union vote be held.
The findings have been forwarded to the Atlanta regional director of the NLRB, who will give the final ruling of whether or not to hold a second vote. The findings were based on an objections appeal against the vote results filed by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which has been organizing for a union vote at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer (BHM1).
“Workers endured an intensive anti-union campaign designed by Amazon to intimidate and interfere with their choice on whether or not to form a union,” read a statement released by the RWDSU on Monday, responding to the findings. “Today’s recommendation is based on Amazon’s illegal tactics and shows how the company was willing to use any and all tactics, illegal or otherwise, to stop workers from forming a union.”
The union vote was held between February 8 and March 29, and over 3,200 of the 5,900 voting-eligible workers submitted their ballots. The unionization bid was defeated with 1,798 voting against it as opposed to 738 voting in favor as per the results released on April 9. Hundreds of ballots were submitted but not counted after Amazon raised objections against them during the counting.
RWDSU filed its objections alleging union-busting activities, massive anti-union propaganda by the company, and heavy surveillance of ballot boxes by the company. After a hearing that went on for nearly three weeks in May, the hearing officer released the findings two months later.
The point of contention was the placing of ballot boxes by the local postal services as per the direction of the company, giving them a chance to keep voting workers under surveillance. According to Jacobin, the officer’s report found that the decision to install these ballot boxes was the “unilateral decision” of Amazon and “destroyed the laboratory conditions” necessary for the elections as per the NLRB and “justifies a second election.”
While the findings went in favor of the RWDSU and pro-union workers at Amazon, and more often than not the hearing officer’s findings are adopted, it will take several weeks more for the regional director to make a decision. If the regional director decides to adopt the hearing officer’s recommendations, Amazon still has the right to appeal against the decision to the NLRB and further delay the process. Nevertheless, the RWDSU and pro-union workers celebrated the decisions as a way forward.
“We support the hearing officer’s recommendation that the NLRB set aside the election results and direct a new election,” said Stuart Applebaum, president of the RWDSU. He added that “the question of whether or not to have a union is supposed to be the workers’ decision and not the employer’s. Amazon’s behavior throughout the election process was despicable. Amazon cheated, they got caught, and they are being held accountable.”