6,000 Amazon warehouse staff will maintain a union vote in Alabama on February eighth
Amazon Fulfillment Center warehouse.
Amazon warehouse workers at an Alabama warehouse will be able to vote by mail in early February to form a union, a National Labor Relations Board hearing officer ruled Friday.
The ruling initiates a closely monitored trade union vote at one of the country's largest employers. Unions have a stronger hold among some of Amazon's European employees, but the company has largely managed to thwart organizing efforts in the US.
Approximately 6,000 employees at the fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, will cast their ballots starting February 8th to be represented by the retail, wholesale and department store union. Ballot papers must be received by the NLRB regional office by March 29th. On the following day, the board of directors begins counting the ballot papers from 10 a.m.
The decision is a blow to Amazon, which had urged that the elections be held in person at the Bessemer facility known as BHM1.
A RWDSU spokesman declined to comment. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Amazon previously said the company does not believe that RWDSU "represents the majority of the views of our employees."
Last November, employees at the Alabama facility informed the NLRB of their plans to vote on representation by RWDSU. During a three-day hearing in December, Amazon and the union ironed out details of which employees could vote in the elections, as well as the terms and conditions.
Amazon advocated a personal choice, but the NLRB raised concerns that holding the election at the facility would require board members to travel to Jefferson County, which has a high COVid-positive rate.
Lisa Henderson, acting regional director of the NLRB, said in the decision that a postal vote "will protect the health and safety of voters, agency staff, party representatives and the public during the current health crisis".
Amazon has set up a website publicizing its position on the Alabama camp union. It encourages workers to "act free of charge" and refers to the cost of membership in joining a union.
"We offer you high wages, health benefits, eyesight and dental benefits as well as a safety committee and an appeal process," states the website, on which the Washington Post first reported. "There is so much MORE you can do for your career and your family without paying fees."
Amazon hasn't seen a substantial union vote since 2014 when repair technicians at a Delaware warehouse didn't get enough votes to form a union. Since then, however, protests related to Prime Day and other events, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, have laid the foundation for the increasing organizational efforts of some sections of the workforce across the country.
Amazon spokeswoman Heather Knox said in a statement to CNBC that the company is maintaining "the best approach to valid, fair and successful election," conducted in person near the Alabama facility.
"We will continue to insist on fair election measures and we want everyone to vote, so our focus is on making sure that is possible," added Knox.
A RWDSU spokesman declined to comment.