Votes against Amazon union lead after first day of ballot counting

Votes against Amazon union lead after first day of ballot counting
Union organizers Syrena (R) and Steve (no last names given) wave to cars exiting an Amazon fulfillment center on March 27, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama.Getty/PATRICK T. FALLON
  • The NLRB has paused its counting of Amazon employees' votes over whether to unionize.
  • As of Thursday evening, votes against unionizing led by a margin of 1,100 to 463.
  • The NLRB expects to resume counting the votes Friday, but the results will likely be challenged.

Votes against forming a union at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, lead by a more than 2-1 margin after the first day of counting ballots.

The National Labor Relations Board paused its public counting of Amazon employees' ballots shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday with the anti-union votes leading 1,100 to 463.

The NLRB plans to resume counting ballots again on Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

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While the remaining ballots are likely to be counted Friday, it could take the NLRB several weeks to announce the official outcome of the vote due to likely challenges from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union - the labor group under which Amazon's Bessemer employees would unionize if the vote passes.

"Our system is broken, Amazon took full advantage of that, and we will be calling on the labor board to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign. But make no mistake about it; this still represents an important moment for working people and their voices will be heard," RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum told Insider in a statement.


Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Per NLRB rules for union votes, both Amazon and the RWDSU can file objections within five days of the conclusion of the count. The NLRB then decides whether the objections are serious enough to warrant a hearing where it will determine whether the vote results should be set aside.

Before Thursday's public vote count, both Amazon and the RWDSU also had the opportunity to challenge employees' eligibility to cast a ballot. Hundreds of ballots were challenged, mostly by Amazon, according to the RWDSU, which could potentially impact the outcome as well.

"It's fairly common for there to be unfair labor practice charges at the end of a contentious election like this," John Logan, a labor and employment professor at San Francisco State University who specializes in tactics companies use to defeat union drives, told Insider, though he added that it's "fairly difficult" to predict how the NLRB will ultimately rule on those charges.

Amazon has used tactics including enlisting off-duty local police to monitor union organizers, creating a website with misleading anti-union messages, and publicly attacking politicians on social media who voiced support for the union - which the RWDSU and labor experts say are meant to discourage unionization among employees. (Amazon has repeatedly defended its anti-union tactics as lawful, though it walked back the social media attacks in a blog post last week).


The Washington Post reported Thursday that Amazon pushed the United States Postal Service to install a mailbox outside the Bessemer warehouse at the start of the voting period in February, which the RWDSU previously argued violates labor laws by intimidating workers and implying Amazon plays a role in collecting and counting ballots.

"This mailbox - which only the USPS had access to - was a simple, secure, and completely optional way to make it easy for employees to vote, no more and no less," Amazon spokeswoman Heather Knox told The Post.

But Logan said Amazon's move was highly unusual, even in the US, where labor law heavily favors employers, and that the RWDSU could have a "very strong case for an unfair labor practice charge."

"It's so unlikely that workers wouldn't have looked at that mailbox and concluded that Amazon was playing some kind of direct role in monitoring and even perhaps in counting the votes, which clearly creates an atmosphere of pressure and potentially unlawful intimidation," Logan said.

"Pressuring the Post Office to put a special mailbox onsite seems to be an attempt to circumvent what the NLRB has ruled twice on, saying that: 'no, you can't have a vote at the actual plant,'" he added.


In February, Insider reported that the NLRB had denied Amazon's request to conduct an in-person union election, saying that the company must allow mail-in voting due to the pandemic. And after the close of voting on March 29, the NLRB denied a request by Amazon for increased surveillance on the room where ballots were stored in the labor board's Birmingham, Alabama, headquarters.

Some employees at the plant want to unionize to secure protections against what they say are grueling working conditions and productivity quotas, constant surveillance, and unfair firings. Others told Insider that they oppose forming a union because they worry about Amazon taking away perks and having to pay union dues (Alabama is a right-to-work state, however, meaning employees aren't obligated to pay union dues).

Read more: Amazon workers leading a historic push for unionization in Alabama describe midnight 'education' meetings, an unexpected mailbox, and streams of anti-union flyers as they go up against one of the world's most powerful companies