The AP reports that New York City (NYC) has a new mayor, Bill de Blasio. On the basis of objections raised by Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, the National Labor Relations Board has ordered a new union election.
Amazon, which spent the better part of a year attempting to persuade Bessemer warehouse workers to reject the union, has suffered a major setback with this announcement.
There is no set date for the second election, and the board has yet to decide whether it will be held in person or via mail.
According to the NLRB’s regional director Lisa Henderson, Amazon installed a USPS mailbox at the main employee entrance, which may have created the false impression that the company was actually conducting the election process. As far as making voting easier and encouraging as many people to participate as possible, Henderson rejected Amazon’s claim.
As a result of Henderson’s decision, a “free and fair election” was impossible because of “the employer’s flagrant disregard for the board’s typical mail-ballot procedure,” she said. In order to give the impression that it was in control, the employer installed a postal mailbox at the main employee entrance. This sends the wrong message to employees and undermines their faith in the board’s processes and the validity of the results.”
When it came time for the first vote, the RWDSU accused Amazon of engaging in illegal conduct. By the end of August, the NLRB hearing officer who presided over the case found that Amazon had broken labor law and recommended to Henderson that the results are set aside and a new election be directed.
There were approximately 6,000 employees who voted in the first election.
Speaking on behalf of Amazon, Kelly Nantel described the move as “disappointing.”
According to Nantel, “our employees have always had the choice whether or not to join a union, and they chose not to join the RWDSU earlier this year.” Because of the NLRB’s decision, those votes will no longer be counted.
The RWDSU’s president, Stuart Appelbaum, welcomed the NLRB’s decision.
As the Regional Director has stated, that is both unacceptable and illegal, and this decision reaffirms what we have been saying all along—intimidation Amazon’s and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace—and today’s decision confirms that” said a statement. A union is the only way for Amazon employees to have a say in their working conditions.
If Amazon does not file a request for a full board review within the next 10 days, the order for a new election will remain in place. If the full board overturns the regional director’s decision, the election could be halted or the results nullified if the board sides with Amazon after the union vote has already taken place.
There is no guarantee that the union will win even if a second election is allowed to proceed, according to labor experts. Amazon, which is based in Seattle, is likely to appeal and try to postpone the next vote. When an election is held, workers may vote to reject union membership once more. 1,798 workers voted against the union, while 738 supported it.
Employees at the Bessemer warehouse, where online orders are packed and shipped, said they worked 10-hour shifts on their feet and didn’t have enough time to take breaks. Workers at Amazon said that a union could force the company to give them more time off or raise their wages. There is no need for workers to pay union dues, Amazon argued, because it already pays more than double the state’s minimum wage.
In Staten Island, New York, ex-Amazon employee Christian Smalls is spearheading a campaign without the support of a national sponsor. More than two weeks ago, the group led by Smalls withdrew its petition before the labor board was scheduled to hold a hearing on the matter. Refiling is possible for the workers, however.
Workers at three Starbucks locations in and around Buffalo, New York, are among those attempting to organize outside of Amazon. Unionized workers at the food company Kellogg’s continue to walk out despite widespread labor unrest across the country.
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