News Analysis

Voting Over, but Union Fight at Amazon Is Not

By Geoff Mirelowitz

April 2, 2021—The vote at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, closed March 29. The fight to establish a union there, however, is far from over.

A March 31 article on Slate.com, titled, “Why It’s Taking So Darn Long to Figure Out Who Won Amazon’s Union Vote,” included facts that may not be well known or understood.

“[I]t could take days or even weeks until we know the results,” reported Slate’s Aaron Mak. “That’s because the NLRB’s [National Labor relations Board] counting process is slow and exacting.”

Referring to a report in the New York Times, he continued, “the process begins with a conference in which an NLRB official reads the names of every employee who submitted a ballot. Representatives from Amazon and the RWDSU [Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union] check those names against their own employee rolls, and either side can contest a person’s eligibility—for instance, Reuters found that 19 people received ballots even though they’d already left the company, and at least two of them voted. Any contested ballots get set aside. Reuters further reports that just determining the eligibility of the voters likely won’t be completed until later this week.”

“After the contested ballots are removed from the pile,” the Slate article continued, “the NLRB starts counting the votes… The amount of time this will take depends partly on how many people voted—if that number is in the thousands, it could take weeks.

“It only requires a simple majority for the union to be approved. If it turns out, though, that the number of contested ballots is larger than the margin of victory, then the NLRB will have to hold a hearing in which Amazon and the RWDSU argue over whether certain votes should or shouldn’t be counted. Once that portion of the process is finished, which could also take multiple days, only then will we finally have a result.”

However, the official outcome can be delayed even further. “Either side can still file challenges to the NLRB about how the voting was facilitated, which could lead to throwing out the results and holding a new election,” Slate noted. “The union, for instance, could argue that Amazon improperly pressured employees to vote no. Amazon, on the other hand, could quibble with the fact that voting happened via mail, rather than in person.”

The latter is true even though the NLRB already denied Amazon’s objections to a mail-in vote. U.S. labor law allows the employers many machinations to get around any union organizing victory.

Protesters hold signs during Feb. 20, 2021, picket line across from Amazon’s Whole Foods Market in Manhattan, New York, in solidarity with the union organizing drive at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. (Photo: Shutterstock).

In our March 26 article on World-Outlook.com (https://world-outlook.com/2021/03/26/the-fight-to-organize-amazon-workers-in-alabama-set-example-for-all-labor/) we reported: “In 2019, Amazon beat back an effort by the GMB Union to organize one of the company’s warehouses in England. ‘We know Amazon will leave no stone unturned to beat you,’ Mick Rix, a national officer of the GMB Union, told the Washington Post recently. ‘It was a harsh lesson to learn.’”

The labor movement and other supporters of the fight to unionize Amazon should not stand by idly while Amazon pursues the same course in Bessemer. Solidarity with the RWDSU and Amazon workers in Alabama remains a priority. The outcome of this battle is of enormous importance for the working class and U.S. labor movement. However, it is one battle in what will certainly be a longer war to unionize the giant employer, as well as workers at Wal-Mart and similar warehouse facilities.

The fight to unionize Amazon is an international one. Progress has been made in other countries despite Amazon’s union-busting strategy.

An article published April 1 on BBC.com reported: “Union membership in the US is unusually low—just 6.3% of the private-sector workforce, according to the labour department.

“In comparison, Amazon workers in Japan, the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Poland are all unionised.

“In Germany a recent four-day strike was called over pay and conditions, while in Italy Amazon workers held a 24-hour strike over what they described as exhausting work rates and ‘management by algorithm’.”

Amazon workers in Italy went on strike recently over exhausting work rates and ‘management by algorithm.’ (Photo: Getty Images)

World-Outlook.com reader Mark Friedman commented on our earlier article that “two national support protests [took place prior to the end of the union vote] in more than 45 cities. Although usually small, they show the interest in this organizing effort.” 

More such actions remain necessary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s