Union files objections to Amazon election results, alleging layoffs were threatened

FILE PHOTO: Congressional delegation to Amazon plant
FILE PHOTO: Banners are placed at the Amazon facility as members of a congressional delegation arrive to show their support for workers who will vote on whether to unionize, in Bessemer, Alabama, U.S. March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Dustin Chambers/File Photo

April 19, 2021

By Jeffrey Dastin

(Reuters) – A labor group that did not secure enough votes from Amazon.com Inc warehouse workers in Alabama to form a union has formally objected to the election results and alleged the online retailer threatened to lay off staff, according to a government filing.

Amazon has denied the outcome resulted from intimidation of its employees and said it did not threaten layoffs or a facility closure.

Late on Friday, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) submitted nearly two dozen objections to Amazon’s conduct during the election, which it said prevented employees from a “free and uncoerced exercise of choice” on whether to create the company’s first-ever U.S. union.

The vote count earlier this month showed that workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse rejected joining the RWDSU by a more than 2-to-1 margin. Labor advocates had hoped the more than 5,800-person election at America’s second-largest private employer would grow support for unions after a decline in membership over decades.

In the filing to the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, shared with Reuters, the RWDSU requested the election results be set aside. It alleged that Amazon’s agents unlawfully threatened employees with closure of the warehouse if they joined the RWDSU, and that the company emailed a warning it would lay off 75% of the proposed bargaining unit because of the union.

Reuters was unable to obtain a copy of the alleged email or independently determine its veracity.

When contacted by Reuters, Amazon said in a statement: “The fact is that less than 16% of employees at BHM1 voted to join a union. Rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda. We look forward to the next steps in the legal process.”

The RWDSU is requesting that an NLRB regional director schedule a hearing on its objections, which also focused on a ballot collection box at the warehouse – known as BHM1 – that the RWDSU said may have compromised the secrecy of workers’ votes.

Amazon said the collection box was installed by the U.S. Postal Service at the site and covered by a tent, making it a convenient and private voting option for employees.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)