Amazon was on track to defeat an effort to organize workers at its Bessemer, Alabama warehouse, with 49 percent of the ballots counted in a vote that is closely watched by the American labor movement.
Union leaders have launched an immediate appeal for accusations that Amazon has unlawfully intimidated employees, meaning the issue will likely be decided not by the ballot itself, but by regulators or officials in Washington.
But as the count was interrupted for Thursday evening, the “no” votes exceeded the number of “yes” by more than two to one – 1,100 votes to 463. There were 1,650 votes left to be counted on Friday. The union must reach 1,608 votes to win.
About 55% of the 5,800 employees at the Bessemer distribution center voted – the first formal vote on organized labor at a U.S. Amazon factory in 26 years.
The vote count comes after months of relentless campaigning, during which Amazon executives clashed with politicians on social media, sparking ugly discussions about working conditions at the e-commerce giant.
In March, President Joe Biden urged Amazon to allow workers to make a “free and fair choice” in representation.
On a final result, the retail, wholesale and department store union plans to appeal, calling Amazon’s anti-union efforts “despicable.”
“Our system is broken, Amazon has taken full advantage of it,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of RWDSU. “We will ask the Labor Relations Board to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign.”
If it considers the complaints to be well-founded, the local National Labor Relations Board has the power to overrule the result, awarding the union victory. Amazon could then choose to challenge the matter before regulators in Washington, a process that could take several months, labor experts said.
The union’s appeal will focus on installing a mailbox in the parking lot at Amazon’s facility.
Emails obtained by the union, via an access to information request, showed that the US Postal Service was pressured by Amazon to “move quickly” before the vote. Details of the emails were first published by the Washington Post.
“There is no doubt that many Bessemer workers would have taken this as a sign that Amazon had an official role in monitoring and counting the votes,” said John Logan, professor of labor and labor studies. employment at San Francisco State University.
In a statement, Amazon said the mailbox was only accessible by the USPS and was “a simple, secure, and completely optional way to make it easy for employees to vote, no more and no less.”
Amazon added more than 800,000 workers during the pandemic, bringing its total global workforce to 1.3 million, as demand and income soared. In the United States, the company is now the country’s second largest employer behind Walmart, not to mention its extensive network of delivery drivers hired by third-party providers.
In Europe, unionized Amazon workers have staged a number of strikes over concerns about safety and working conditions.