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Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama will redo union vote after NLRB orders new election

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The view inside an Amazon fulfillment center. (GeekWire File Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The National Labor Relations Board is calling for a new union election at an Amazon fulfillment warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., eight months after employees there voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

The NLRB formally issued a Decision and Direction of a Second Election according to an email from the RWDSU on Monday. NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado confirmed to GeekWire that Region 10 Director Lisa Henderson ordered a new election.

The unionization effort was struck down by a wide margin last April, with 1,798 voting against joining the union and 738 voting for it at the warehouse facility known as BHM1. The warehouse employs about 6,000 workers.

The defeat ended what was the most serious effort to unionize a segment of the workforce at the tech giant that now employs 1.5 million people worldwide.

But organizers claimed throughout the process that Amazon managers were violating labor laws with anti-union tactics, such as ballot boxes with camera surveillance. In August, a NLRB hearing officer ruled that Amazon stepped outside allowable guidelines and improperly pressured Bessemer warehouse workers against unionizing the warehouse. That officer recommended in a report that the election should be redone.

“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along  that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace — and as the Regional Director has indicated, that is both unacceptable and illegal,” RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement Monday. “Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union.”

The NLRB has not yet determined a date for the second election and does not yet know if it will be conducted in person or by mail. The order to redo the election will stand unless Amazon files a request for review with the NLRB and is granted a reversal of Monday’s ruling.

In a statement to GeekWire, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel called the NLRB decision “disappointing.”

“Our employees have always had the choice of whether or not to join a union, and they overwhelmingly chose not to join the RWDSU earlier this year,” Nantel said. “It’s disappointing that the NLRB has now decided that those votes shouldn’t count. As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees.”

Nantel added that unions make it harder for employees to quickly improve their jobs or have their voices be heard.

“While we’ve made great progress in important areas like pay and safety, we know there are plenty of things that we can keep doing better, both in our fulfillment centers and in our corporate offices, and that’s our focus — to work directly with our employees to keep getting better every day,” Nantel said.

Amazon workers at a Staten Island, N.Y., fulfillment center recently withdrew a petition to hold a union election after failing to collect enough signatures from workers.

Read the NLRB’s ruling on a new Bessemer election below:

NLRB ruling on Amazon and R… by GeekWire

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