Amazon workers in Alabama vote again on joining union

Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, are voting again on whether to join a union.

It follows a ruling from the US National Labour Relations Board (NLRB), that Amazon had interfered with the previous election.

More than 6,000 workers are eligible to vote to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Workers have until March 25 to vote, and results will be counted at the end of March.

Two other Amazon warehouses in Staten Island are also preparing to hold elections.

‘Objectionable behaviour’

The first election in Bessemer attracted worldwide attention, as it would have been Amazon’s first US union.

But workers at the BHM1 warehouse in Alabama rejected a move to unionise, by a margin of two to one.

As the new vote got under way, the RWDSU said: “Workers’ voices can and must be heard fairly, unencumbered by Amazon’s limitless power to control what must be a fair and free election.”

The NLRB ordered the new election in November.

Its report into how the election had been conducted found that Amazon had:

  • held meetings six days a week, 18 hours a day, intended to dissuade workers from joining a union
  • employed private paid consultants to attend these meetings
  • used text messages and written flyers on bathroom walls and television screens, to dissuade workers
  • installed a box for voting within view of multiple video surveillance cameras – which gave the impression that it was the official polling location – which Amazon controlled, and had knowledge of who participated

The RWDSU added: “We are deeply concerned that the decision fails to adequately prevent Amazon from continuing its objectionable behaviour in a new election.”

Algorithm decisions

In response Amazon said: “Our employees have always had the choice of whether or not to join a union, and they overwhelmingly chose not to join the RWDSU last year. We look forward to our team in BHM1 having their voices heard again.”

Union membership in the US is low – just 6.3% of the private sector workforce, according to the US Department of Labour.

Amazon workers in Japan, the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Poland are all unionised. Issues which the unions representing them look into include work-rate demands, injuries and the increasing use of algorithms in deciding how workers perform.

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