Amazon must redo Bessemer union election, orders labor board official

By Russell Brandom

US-IT-POLITICS-LABOR-AMAZON Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ordered a new election at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama site, a tentative victory for organizers who had sought to unionize workers at the company’s fulfillment locations. The decision, issued by the regional director overseeing the case, builds on a previous recommendation from the hearing officer assigned to the case.

“I agree with the hearing officer’s recommendations,” Monday’s decision reads. “Accordingly, I affirm the hearing officer’s rulings, I adopt her recommendation to sustain certain objections, and I order a second election.”

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

No date has been set for the second election, and Amazon will have ten business days to request a review of the decision. If Amazon makes that request, it could pause any new election until the company’s request can be reviewed by the NLRB’s five board members.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which organized the drive that culminated in the February election, hailed the decision as a victory. “Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along,” said RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum,that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace.”

Announced in April, the election result delivered an overwhelming defeat for the RWDSU, with workers voting 1,798 to 738 against unionization. But that result was contested by RWDSU officials, who argue Amazon interfered with the election by — among other things — installing its own mailbox to collect ballots. Amazon security guards had access to the mailbox, giving some workers the impression that Amazon controlled the results.

In the months since, a number of other unions have expressed interest in organizing Amazon workers, and a second election at the site might face significantly more interest from other labor groups. On June 24th, the Teamsters announced a nationwide campaign to organize Amazon’s sprawling workforce. The Teamsters have committed to spending “all resources necessary” to make the campaign successful.

Zoe Schiffer also contributed to this report.