The tally began on Thursday in an organizing vote for workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., Culminating months of relentless efforts to organize one of the e-commerce giant’s U.S. facilities for the first time. .
From Thursday evening, Amazon won the vote by a margin of about 2-1. There were still thousands of votes to count and the counting process could drag on until Friday or later. There were also hundreds of disputed ballots, most of which were disputed by Amazon.
About 5,800 workers at the Bessemer warehouse, known as BHM1, were eligible to vote on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union. About 55% of eligible workers voted in the election.
Even after the votes are counted, the election may still be far from over. Other legal challenges could be in store, as both parties can file objections against the NLRB over conduct during the election or appeal the decision to the NLRB board in Washington. These processes typically involve hearings before the NLRB, which would likely result in elections lasting several months.
The vote ends months of intense campaigning by Amazon and RWDSU. Last November, workers at the Bessemer plant notice filed organize a union election. Amazon initially sought to delay the vote and strongly opposed the union via a website, leaflets and SMS widely distributed to employees, as well as mandatory meetings, during which he encouraged employees to “vote NO.”
RWDSU organizers were stationed outside the Bessemer facility every day, hoping to catch workers at the end of their shift to pledge support for the union. In mid-January, more than 3,000 settlement workers signed cards authorizing RWDSU to represent them, though some have since left Amazon. Support for the campaign came from outside the state, including critical endorsement from President Joe Biden, which, without naming Amazon, discouraged employer interference in the elections.
For many years, major unions, including the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the RWDSU quietly spoke to Amazon workers on the organization. They have long faced considerable challenges organizing Amazon workers in the United States, where none of the company’s warehouses are unionized, while unions are common among Amazon workers in Europe.
The last major union vote at an Amazon U.S. facility took place in a Delaware warehouse in 2014, when a group of repair technicians voted 21 to 6 against membership in the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
Amazon’s public profile has grown since then. The company is now the second largest employer in the country, with 1.2 million employees worldwide. This drew attention to the election of Bessemer, as well as hope that the campaign will revive organizing efforts across the country over the course of a year. decline in private sector union membership.
Interest in organizing Amazon warehouses accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic. As the virus forced many people inside, frontline workers at Amazon and other companies continued to report to work to provide essential services, shining a light on working conditions in communities. warehouses.
Last spring, amid rising cases, Amazon warehouse and delivery workers across the country called a lack of coronavirus safety measures and inadequate sick leave, among other concerns. Some workers organized protests and walkouts, as well as circulated online petitions, which have sparked further scrutiny against Amazon legislators. Tensions between Amazon and some workers have escalated over claims that unfairly retaliated against and dismissed employees who openly criticized his work practices.
BHM1 opened last march, as Amazon was in the midst of a record hiring spree to deal with a surge in online orders fueled by the coronavirus. Employees supporting the union had expressed a number of concerns about working conditions, such as the hectic pace of picking, packing and shipping items, in addition to the fact that workers did not enough time to use the bathroom.
“We started talking about organizing one day during a hiatus,” said Jennifer Bates, a Bessemer warehouse worker who contacted RWDSU last summer alongside other colleagues last month. “People were upset that the breaks were too short and didn’t have enough time to rest, to be humiliated going through random security checks. Others didn’t like that they didn’t. never speak to a manager, app or SMS. “
Not all BHM1 workers saw the merits of a union in their establishment. During round table organized by Amazon last monthBessemer employee Ora McClendon said the union is not aligning with “what we do here at BHM1”. Other workers who spoke at the roundtable spoke positively about working at Amazon and expressed skepticism about the kind of impact a union would have on their work.
“In my opinion, my vote is no,” McClendon said. “We don’t need a union here. We are doing very well, we have the greatest leadership. We work as a team and that is very important here.”