- Daily Zen
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) of the US has rejected Amazon’s request to postpone a union vote at one of its warehouses in Alabama, giving an opportunity to nearly 6,000 workers to form a union.
The workers wanted a mail-in vote to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), but Amazon appealed against such a move in the NLRB.
The NLRB, in its ruling, said that Amazon’s appeal raised “no substantial issues warranting review…The Employer’s Motion to Stay the Election Pending Review is also denied as moot,” the board said.
The NLRB decision clears the way for the workers at the Bessemer facility in Alabama to start voting on Monday. The voting ends on March 29 and counting starts on March 30.
This is the second time in the last 5 years that workers at any Amazon facility have tried to form a union. Earlier, in 2014, a similar attempt was made by technicians at a warehouse in Delaware, but the workers were unable to garner the minimum required votes to join any union.
The company then had retained a premier anti-union law firm, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, to successfully fight off the union representation bid by the equipment maintenance and repair technicians. The same firm represented Amazon in this unionization bid claim too.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a renewed call by the workers employed by the online retail giant to form a union. The pandemic saw an unprecedented demand for online goods, which has led to added working hours and a burden on Amazon employees.
The Amazon Prime Day rush led to many workers holding protests against the heavy work demand put on them.
In a bid to discourage the union drive, Amazon has set up a website reminding workers that joining a union will cost them money in the form of membership dues.
Another typical tactic that it is using is to include more workers in the proposed bargaining unit that the RWDSU needs, to make it harder for the union to reach those workers.
According to NLBR regulations, RWDSU needs at least 30 percent of cards signed by the proposed workers’ negotiating unit authorizing it to represent workers, which it claims is 1,500 workers. But Amazon surprisingly has argued that the proposed unit has 5,723 workers, though there is no explanation given about how it arrived at this figure.
When Amazon opened the warehouse, Amazon said it would be employing 1,500 workers at the facility. The union has questioned Amazon’s claim of 5700 workers as it says so many people cannot be accommodated in that much space.
It “defies logic that a facility built to accommodate around 1,500 full-time associates can accommodate 5,723 employees,” the union argued in its filing.
But Amazon’s spokeswoman Heather Knox said the company currently employs more than 5,000 full-time, permanent workers at the 885,000 square-foot Bessemer facility.
It is a common tactic among employers to delay NLRB hearings initiated by workers to form unions. Amazon hopes that the delaying move will lead to many union-supporting workers moving on, as the turnover rate is very high in such facilities.