A voting day counting inThursday showed contests headed in different directions, but there are no definitive results yet for the historic organizing moves.
Warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, appeared to vote against joining the retail, wholesale and department store union, for the second time in a year, according to unofficial results of 875 votes to 993 votes. vs. However, final results will not be certified until 416 disputed ballots have been resolved. Meanwhile, the fledgling Amazon Labor Union ended the day with an unofficial lead of 1,518 votes to 1,154 votes against in its bid to represent Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, a New York borough. . It’s unclear how many ballots remain to be counted or how many disputed ballots will need to be resolved after the vote.
A win in New York would mean the first US union in Amazon history.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. At a press conference, RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said the union would fight to ensure every valid ballot was counted. Whatever the outcome, he said, it was not the end of the labor movement’s efforts to organize Amazon workers.
“The workers here have shown what is possible,” he said. “They helped spark a movement.”
The counts, made by the National Labor Relations Board, come after more than a year of organizing and campaigning at the segregated warehouses and are part of a larger labor push at the e-commerce giant. Amazon workers in other locations have engaged in direct labor actions, backing down on demands for raises, paid sick leave and the right to keep phones with them at work in case emergency. Employees at other companies are also considering unions, with workers at more than 150 Starbucks stores filing for union elections and nine stores vote to join Workers United.
Labor experts said the odds were against unions in both elections. In Staten Island, organizers failed to win support from more than 50% of workers before calling for an election, filing a petition that simply met the legal requirement that 30% of workers sign. Not only that, but an earlier petition filed by the union did not cross the 30% mark. Andrew MacDonald, labor lawyer at Fox Rothschild, said unions typically want more than half because they expect to lose support as the vote approaches.
“The increase of less than 30% at the time of application submissions to even an advance after the half count is over is unprecedented, at least in recent times,” MacDonald said.
Amazon workers face a unique challenge in forming unions. While Amazon hasto strive to be the best employer in the world, it demands long hours and a very controlled and fast pace of work in its warehouses, leaving little time for chatting among workers. It also has an exceptionally high turnover rate, which means workers who support a union today can leave tomorrow.
Finally, the size of each potential bargaining unit, or group of employees who must collectively decide whether or not to accept union representation, is very important in Amazon warehouses. More than 6,100 workers received ballots in Bessemer. The Starbucks stores that unionized each had a dozen or two employees.
“A successful organization requires one-on-one conversations with each worker,” said Rebecca Givans, associate professor of labor relations at Rutgers University. “This means that larger workplaces need larger organizing committees and they need to reach many more teams and areas of the workplace in order to successfully organize enough people.”
The Amazon Labor Union was formed by current and former Amazon workers following efforts by workers in early 2020 to demand more protections against COVID-19. Workers who were involved in planning walkouts later. As workers launched an organizing campaign, the new union filed several unfair labor practice complaints against Amazon for retaliation and intimidation, and an NLRB .
The union’s potential victory would be a “big deal”, said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter. It also makes sense that it takes place in New York.
“In a tight labor market (big cities where everyone earns about as much as Amazon pays), unionized workers will have leverage,” he wrote in an email.
Bessemer workers voted for the first time in 2021 on whether to join RWDSU,by a margin of more than 2 to 1. The RWDSU challenged the election results and the labor commission after it was discovered that Amazon had illegally interfered with the vote by setting up a mailbox that looked like a voting booth, potentially misleading employees into believing that Amazon and not the NLRB was running the election.
On Thursday, RWDSU President Appelbaum said the union believes Amazon also acted illegally in this election, which could lay the groundwork for another challenge. He said an in-person election would have been a better method because the mailbox incident had marred the mail-in voting process for warehouse workers. Ballots for the second vote were mailed out in early February and workers had until March 25 to mail them back.
Staten Island workersover a period of six consecutive days ending on Wednesday. The count will resume on Friday morning.