Today, the Director of Region 10 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) formally issued a decision and direction of a second election, granting workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala.-based 825,000-square-foot fulfillment center a new election based on the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s (RWDSU) objections to Amazon’s conduct during the union election conducted in the spring of 2021.
On April 9, 2021, Seattle-based Amazon triumphed in the historic unionization drive in Bessemer, Ala., with the majority of workers at its facility voting against unionization. “People should not presume that the results are in any way a validation of Amazon’s working conditions or the way it treats its employees,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum at the time.
Appelbaum, who called Amazon’s actions leading up to the vote, “despicable,” accused the company of making its employees attend misleading lectures, bringing in union-busters to the Bessemer facility, and flooding the internet, airwaves and social media with “ads spreading misinformation.”
“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along—that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace—and as the regional director has indicated, that is both unacceptable and illegal,” said Appelbaum in a release on Nov. 29. “Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union.”
Despite the outcome in April, it was clear that the battle over whether or not to unionize at the Amazon facility was not over.
“We have just begun to fight,” enthused Amazon worker and RWDSU organizer Michael “Big Mike” Foster at the press conference following the vote on April 9. “It is not over. It’s just the beginning,” affirmed another Amazon worker identified at the conference as Emmett.
Also in April, the RWDSU charged Amazon with illegal misconduct during the union vote in Bessemer. In August, the hearing officer who presided over the case determined that Amazon violated labor law; and recommended that the regional director set aside the results of the election and direct a second election. The date and method of the new election are yet to be determined.
“Our employees have always had the choice of whether or not to join a union, and they overwhelmingly chose not to join the RWDSU earlier this year,” said Kelly Nantel of Amazon, in a statement. “It’s disappointing that the NLRB has now decided that those votes shouldn’t count.
“As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” continued Nantel. “Every day we empower people to find ways to improve their jobs, and when they do that we want to make those changes—quickly. That type of continuous improvement is harder to do quickly and nimbly with unions in the middle. The benefits of direct relationships between managers and employees can’t be overstated—these relationships allow every employee’s voice to be heard, not just the voices of a select few. While we’ve made great progress in important areas like pay and safety, we know there are plenty of things that we can keep doing better, both in our fulfillment centers and in our corporate offices, and that’s our focus—to work directly with our employees to keep getting better every day.”
Representing 100,000 members throughout the U.S., the RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW).