According to the labor union leading the movement, Amazon used unlawful bullying tactics to block a “free and fair” vote on unionizing an Alabama warehouse earlier this month.
According to complaints filed with US labor regulators by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant threatened ahead of the closely watched, fiercely contested vote in Bessemer, Ala., to lay off staff and shut down the facility entirely if workers voted to unionize.
Late Friday, the RWDSU filed a total of 23 complaints with the National Relations Labor Board, alleging that Amazon “generated an environment of doubt, intimidation, and or fear of reprisal.”
The union, which has requested a meeting with the NLRB to address its objections, asserted that the results — in which workers voted more than 2-to-1 against unionization, with 55% of facility employees voting — should be set aside due to the online behemoth’s meddling in the voting phase.
Amazon responded to the objections with the following statement: “The truth is that less than 16% of workers at BHM1 voted to join a union.” Rather than acknowledge these workers’ decision, the union seems intent on continuing to fabricate reality in order to further its own agenda. We eagerly await the next stage of the legal process.”
The objections could mark the start of a protracted process before the National Labor Relations Board to decide if the election results were fair. Each side can present evidence and contest the other party’s allegations as well as the NLRB’s rulings.
The existence of a ballot box in an employee parking lot where security cameras were installed created the impression that “Amazon, not the NLRB,” was in charge of the election’s mechanics, RWDSU said in a statement. The union had objected to the ballot box’s use, alleging that it was being used as an intimidation tool.
According to the opposition, the employer generated the perception that it was recording the identity of employees who voted through security cameras in the employee parking lot that could capture employees entering and leaving the tent surrounding the collection box.
Meanwhile, the union alleges that Amazon transferred employees who accepted a labor contract to positions that restricted their interaction with coworkers during work hours. Additionally, Amazon reportedly promised to “pay dissatisfied or unhappy workers to quit” in what the union refers to as “the deal.”
Amazon also dismissed a union supporter for handing out union cards in non-working parts of the factory, according to the objection. Simultaneously, Amazon attempted to sway the vote by relaxing some of its labor rules, giving workers wage increases, and giving away products, the union said.
The months-long vote has garnered widespread attention and was discussed by Amazon billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos in his letter to shareholders last week, in which he stated that the company should do better by its workers and pledged to personally lead an initiative to make Amazon “the world’s best employer.”
Bezos admitted in his shareholder letter that Amazon has a workplace injury issue related to repetitive movements on the job, which he intends to fix directly in his current position as executive chairman later this year.
But he denied claims against the company by staff and others that it does not provide enough time for bathroom and meal breaks are unfounded.
“During their shifts, employees may take informal breaks to stretch, obtain water, use the toilet, or speak with a manager, all without impairing their efficiency. These informal job breaks supplement the 30-minute lunch and 30-minute break included in their regular schedule,” he explained.