Amazon just lost its bid to require in-person voting for a union election in Alabama

Amazon just lost its bid to require in-person voting for a union election in Alabama
Amazon warehouse worker. Alistair Berg/Getty ImagesAlistair Berg/Getty Images
  • Amazon's bid to require in-person votes in union election in Alabama was denied by the NLRB.
  • Thousands of workers in Alabama will soon begin mailing in ballots for the election.
  • If successful, the union would be Amazon's first in the United States.

The National Labor Relations Board on Friday denied Amazon's request to require in-person voting for a union election at a fulfilment center in Bessemer, Alabama, allowing a mail-in effort to commence as soon as next week.

Amazon asked the board to reconsider its decision to allow a vote by mail in January, as the company wanted thousands of warehouse employees to vote in person instead. In its motion, Amazon said in-person voting allows supervision, promotes employee participation, and serves as an expression of employees' rights. The NLRB has been allowing the use of mail-in ballots since March because of the pandemic.
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The NLRB disagreed, rejecting Amazon's request and reiterating its decision that a mail-in ballot would be the "safest and most appropriate" method amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, thousands of Amazon workers at the fulfillment center will begin casting their mail-in votes on February 8, marking the company's first US union election since 2014 - which failed. The election will last for seven weeks until March 29.
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Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is helping Amazon workers in their unionization effort, said the NLRB's decision is another win for the employees.

"Amazon's blatant disregard for the health and safety of its own workforce was demonstrated yet again by its insistence for an in-person election in the middle of the pandemic," he said press release. "Today's decision proves that it's long past time that Amazon start respecting its own employees; and allow them to cast their votes without intimidation and interference."

In a statement, the company said it was diappointed by the board's decision. "Amazon proposed a safe on-site election process validated by COVID-19 experts that would have empowered our associates to vote on their way to, during and from their already scheduled shifts," Amazon spokesperson Heather Knox said in an emailed statement to Insider. "We will continue to insist on measures for a fair election that allows for a majority of our employee voices to be heard."
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Read more: More than 40% of surveyed Amazon employees say they wished they were in a union, a new Insider survey shows

About 6,000 workers at the Alabama factory will vote on creating a union, which would be the first among Amazon employees in the US. That could potentially pave a path to unionization at other Amazon locations across the country, according to Reuters. The company is the second-largest private employer in the US, after Walmart, with 1.3 million workers. The e-commerce giant has long avoided unionization. This week, the company posted an anti-union message in the bathroom that read "where will your dues go?" One employee felt harassed, according to the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos.
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The vote comes as Bezos plans to step down later this year to take on the role of executive chairman of the board. Andy Jassy, currently the CEO of Amazon Web Services, will take over.

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