This story originally appeared in Common Dreams on August 3, 2021, and is shared here under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
An official at the National Labor Relations Board on Monday formally recommended tossing out the results of a closely watched union election at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, potentially giving workers there a chance to hold another vote as the e-commerce giant faces accusations of unlawful misconduct.
The recommendation by NLRB hearing officer Kerstin Myers has yet to be released to the public, but the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU)—which led the unionization drive at the Bessemer warehouse—said the official concluded that “Amazon violated labor law” and that a second election should be held. (Update: here is Myers’ recommendation.)
An NLRB regional director will now review the decision and determine whether to adopt Myers’ recommendation—a process that could take weeks. Amazon has already vowed to appeal to ensure that the results of the first election are upheld.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, said in a statement that “throughout the NLRB hearing, we heard compelling evidence of how Amazon tried to illegally interfere with and intimidate workers as they sought to exercise their right to form a union.”
Following Bessemer workers’ overwhelming April vote against unionizing, RWDSU lodged nearly two dozen complaints with the NLRB alleging that Amazon illegally threatened employees with loss of pay and benefits, installed and surveilled an unlawful ballot collection box, and singled out and removed pro-union workers from so-called “captive audience” meetings during which management argued against unionization.
“We support the hearing officer’s recommendation that the NLRB set aside the election results and direct a new election,” Appelbaum said Monday. “The question of whether or not to have a union is supposed to be the workers’ decision and not the employer’s. Amazon’s behavior throughout the election process was despicable. Amazon cheated, they got caught, and they are being held accountable.”
The long-shot effort to unionize roughly 6,000 Bessemer workers in the face of Amazon’s relentless intimidation campaign drew national attention—including from President Joe Biden—as observers saw the election as a potential bellwether for the U.S. labor movement.
“This is happening in the toughest state, with the toughest company, at the toughest moment,” Janice Fine, a professor of labor studies at Rutgers University, said earlier this year. “If the union can prevail given those three facts, it will send a message that Amazon is organizable everywhere.”