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Amazon Warehouse Workers Overwhelmingly Reject Unionization Bid, Organizers Cry Foul

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  • Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, overwhelmingly rejected a bid to unionize, according to a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) tally of the vote.
  • More than half of the workers who cast votes in the Bessemer, Alabama, election voted against unionization, the NLRB reported Friday morning.
  • “Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees,” Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement after it became clear the union didn’t have enough votes Friday.

Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, overwhelmingly rejected a bid to unionize, according to a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) tally of the vote.

More than half of the workers who cast votes in the Bessemer, Alabama, election voted against unionization, the NLRB reported Friday morning. Although hundreds of the ballots were contested, largely by the company, Amazon’s margin of victory was large enough that the contested votes were rendered unimportant.

“Thank you to employees at our BHM1 fulfillment center in Alabama for participating in the election,” Amazon said in a statement Friday. “There’s been a lot of noise over the past few months, and we’re glad that your collective voices were finally heard. In the end, less than 16% of the employees at BHM1 voted to join the RWDSU union.”

The NLRB received 3,215 total ballots, meaning just 55% of the warehouse’s workers voted in the election. The labor board only needed to count about 2,300 ballots before Amazon reached the 50% threshold of 1,608 “no” votes. (RELATED: Historic Amazon Unionization Vote Ends This Week. Here’s Why Amazon Likes Its Chances)

The NLRB counted the vote on a live teleconference that began Thursday and resumed Friday morning with a small group of observers including Amazon representatives, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) representatives and reporters.

Amazon’s 5,805 Bessemer workers would’ve joined the RWDSU if the vote had succeeded. Shortly after the vote count concluded, the union complained Amazon had violated labor law and promised to file charges against the online retailer.

“Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees,” RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement Friday after it became clear the union didn’t have enough votes. “We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote.”

“We demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon’s behavior in corrupting this election,” he continued.

The RWDSU may file a challenge and offer proof of its objections to the election within seven days, according to NLRB rules.

An aerial image shows the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama on March 29. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

An aerial image shows the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama on March 29. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Critics had accused Amazon of improperly attempting to interfere in the union vote with tactics such as posting anti-labor posters in the facility’s bathrooms. The company introduced an initiative to pay $1,000 to unhappy workers to quit, which critics said was an attempt to bribe pro-union workers to leave, The Washington Post reported.

But Amazon defended its actions, saying it regularly posts fliers in bathrooms to ensure all its workers know about important information in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation last week. Additionally, the company said its initiative to pay workers to quit, a program called “The Offer,” is nothing new and has been in place since 2014.

“It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true,” Amazon said on Friday. “Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us.”

But, on Thursday, it emerged that Amazon might have illegally interfered in the election by urging the United States Postal Service to install a ballot mailbox on the Bessemer warehouse’s property, The Washington Post reported. Union elections are usually conducted in person, but due to the pandemic, the election was conducted by mail-in ballots.

“Even though the NLRB definitively denied Amazon’s request for a drop box on the warehouse property, Amazon felt it was above the law and worked with the postal service anyway to install one,” Appelbaum said. “They did this because it provided a clear ability to intimidate workers.”

In February, the NLRB rejected Amazon’s bid to delay the election over concerns that the vote was set to take place via mail. Amazon argued that up to 1,700 workers would be disenfranchised as a result.

An Amazon-sponsored billboard urging employees to return their unionization ballots is seen on March 28 in Bessemer, Alabama. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

An Amazon-sponsored billboard urging employees to return their unionization ballots is seen on March 28 in Bessemer, Alabama. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Pro-union workers demanded better treatment, higher wages, improved training and safety standards, job security, less surveillance, additional hazard pay, more breaks and added benefits, according to RWDSU.

“Amazon presents a threat to the very fabric of society and the social contract we work to uphold for all working people,” RWDSU said in a statement on its website devoted to the Alabama effort. “Corporations like Amazon have built decades of increasingly bold and aggressive attacks on workers’ rights that have dramatically eroded union density.”

However, Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer are paid $15.30 per hour minimum, receive health and dental insurance, are able to have their 401(k) plans matched and may receive college tuition reimbursement, spokesperson Heather Knox recently told the DCNF. (RELATED: Amazon, Which Routinely Avoids Taxes, Supports Biden’s Corporate Tax Rate Hike)

“What are we going to gain from the union vote that we don’t already have?” J.C. Thompson, a Bessemer Amazon employee who opposed unionization, said in March, according to AL.com. “I have 401(k), I have [paid time off], I have [unpaid time off], the benefits are second to none. If I could talk to the president, if I could talk to Congressmen, if I could talk to legislators, I would ask, is this really about the employees, or is this about big money?”

Union supporters distribute information outside of Amazon's fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama on March 29. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Union supporters distribute information outside of Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama on March 29. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

The unionization effort garnered widespread attention with multiple congressional delegations and union activists visiting the Bessemer warehouse to endorse the effort. President Joe Biden and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio both endorsed the effort alongside many Democratic representatives and senators.

“The choice is easy — I support the workers,” Rubio wrote in a March USA Today editorial. (RELATED: Bezos-Owned Amazon Opposes Mail-In Voting For Union Election)

Amazon attacked Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who both endorsed the RWDSU’s effort in Alabama, on Twitter last month after the pair slammed the company for its allegedly anti-union actions. Amazon tweeted that it follows through on promises to make its workplace more progressive while they fail to legislate progressive policies into law.

The Bessemer Amazon workers first filed a notice of a vote to form a union in November. The vote began on Feb. 8 and ended on March 29.

In 2000, the company defeated attempts by the Communications Workers of America and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union to unionize thousands of employees, The New York Times reported at the time. In 2014, a group of Amazon workers in Middletown, Delaware voted overwhelmingly against unionization, according to The Seattle Times.

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