The supermarket union that lost a fiercely contested election at Amazon.com Inc.’s Alabama warehouse has petitioned federal officials to set aside the results.
The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board late Friday alleging that Amazon “prevented workers from exercising their free and uncoerced option,” including by intimidating employees and retaliating against union supporters. The RWDSU produced a copy of the filing, which was not available on the agency’s docket at the time.
According to the union, Amazon questioned workers about their views on the RWDSU and threatened to close the factory if they unionized. The union alleges that the organization discourages union supporters from debating the RWDSU plan during work hours, while encouraging anti-union workers to agitate against the union while on the job.
Workers who challenged the company’s statements during mandatory anti-union meetings were summoned and then escorted out in front of hundreds of coworkers, according to the union, while pro-union staff were reassigned to jobs that would separate them from coworkers while on the job. Additionally, the union charged Amazon with terminating a union supporter for distributing union cards and disciplining an employee for contesting the company’s claims during the required sessions. The union did not name particular individuals who were terminated or disciplined in the filing, but promised to provide proof to the labor board.
The RWDSU charged that the organization exerted pressure on local authorities to change the timing of a nearby traffic light in order to give organizers less time to speak with workers on their way home. Additionally, the union claimed that Amazon violated the labor board’s mail-in ballot directive by forcing employees to vote in a mailbox the company placed in a tent on its grounds, visible to surveillance cameras.
“Rather than acknowledge these workers’ decision, the union is willing to continue fabricating information to further its own agenda,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an email. “We eagerly await the next stage of the legal process.”
The RWDSU received 738 affirmative votes during the seven-week mail-in ballot election, while Amazon received 1,798 negative votes. According to the union, there were 505 contested votes, the majority of which were disputed by Amazon.
The labor board has the power to nullify election results in response to actions that may have influenced the outcome and prohibited workers from exercising their right to unionize freely. Regional labor board leaders consider challenges to election results, and their decisions can be appealed to board members in Washington. The NLRB has five staggered-term seats; Republicans are expected to retain a majority until August.
A strong union appeal would almost certainly result in a new election. Otherwise, the RWDSU will have to wait at least 12 months to recruit enough staff to show significant support for the new bargaining unit.
Employees, legislators, and the general public will closely monitor the appeal’s outcome, as it may influence how employees organize elsewhere and shape legislative debate over the labor movement’s drive to overhaul federal labor laws.