According to the labour union leading the initiative, Amazon used unlawful bullying tactics to avoid a “free and fair” vote on whether to unionize an Alabama warehouse earlier this month.
According to complaints filed with US labour regulators by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant, which won the closely watched, fiercely contested vote in Bessemer, Ala. on April 9, threatened to lay off staff at the facility and shut it down entirely if workers voted to unionize.
Late Friday, the RWDSU filed 23 objections with the National Relations Labor Board, alleging that Amazon “created an atmosphere of confusion, coercion and or fear of reprisals.”
The union, which has requested a meeting with the NLRB to address its concerns, claims that the results — in which workers rejected unionization by a margin of more than 2-to-1, with 55 per cent of the facility’s employees voting — should be overturned because the internet behemoth tampered with the voting method.
In a statement replying to the objections, Amazon said, “The fact is that less than 16 per cent of employees at BHM1 voted to join a union. Rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts to drive its agenda. We look forward to the next steps in the legal process.”
The complaints may be the start of a long period before the National Labor Relations Board decide if the election results were fair. Each side will present facts and contest the other’s claims as well as the NLRB’s decisions.
According to RWDSU, the existence of a ballot box in the employee parking lot where surveillance cameras were set up gave the impression that “Amazon, not the NLRB,” was in charge of the election mechanics. The union had objected to the use of the ballot box, claiming that it was being used as a form of coercion.
“The employer created the impression that it was recording the identity of employees who voted through the security cameras in the employee parking lot that could record employees entering and exiting the tent around the collection box,” according to the objection.
Meanwhile, the union claims that Amazon has moved employees who backed a labour deal into positions that restrict their interaction with coworkers during working hours. Besides, according to the union, Amazon reportedly promised to “pay dissatisfied or unhappy workers to quit” in what is known as “the deal.”
According to the complaint, Amazon fired a union supporter for handing out union cards in the warehouse’s non-working areas. During the voting process, Amazon attempted to sway the vote by relaxing some of its labour rules, giving workers wage increases, and giving away goods, according to the union.
The months-long vote has drawn international attention, and Amazon’s billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos discussed it in a letter to shareholders last week, saying the company should do better by its workers and promising 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 problem due to repetitive movements on the job, which he plans to fix directly in his current position as executive chairman later this year.
However, he denied claims made by employees and others that the company does not have adequate time for bathroom and meal breaks.
“Employees can take informal breaks throughout their shifts to stretch, get water, use the restroom, or talk to a manager, all without impacting their performance. These informal work breaks are in addition to the 30-minute lunch and 30-minute break built into their normal schedule,” he said.