The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced Friday that it would file Objections and Unfair Labor Practice Charges (ULPs) against Amazon with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in the wake of the RWDSU’s unsuccessful union election this year at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, fulfillment center.
The RWDSU is alleging that Amazon illegally interfered with the right of its Bessemer employees to vote in a free and fair election in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Roughly 5,800 employees at the Bessemer warehouse were eligible to vote on joining the RWDSU. A total of 3,200 votes were cast, but only 738 voted to unionize, while 1,798 voted against the initiative.
The RWDSU alleges that Amazon created an “atmosphere of confusion, coercion, and/or fear of reprisals, and thus interfered with the employee’s freedom of choice.” Of particular concern was Amazon’s use of mandatory lectures to persuade employees to vote no, the creation of a now-defunct website listing possible purchases Amazon employees could make instead of paying union dues, and the installation of a ballot drop box on the Amazon property that was used for collecting ballots despite the NLRB’s denial of such an installation.
The RWDSU’s president, Stuart Applebaum, condemned Amazon’s practices, saying, “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.” At a press conference Friday, Amazon workers who voted to unionize and union activists expressed similar sentiments, saying, “this war is not over.”
Amazon contested the RWDSU’s allegations in a statement, saying that the company did nothing to intimidate employees and that the election was an expression of their employees’ choice not to join a union. This effort marks the first Amazon union vote since 2014, when a group of Delaware Amazon technicians voted against unionizing.
Should the RWDSU’s Objection filing convince the NLRB that Amazon’s conduct created an atmosphere of confusion or fear of reprisals, the unionization election results may be set aside. The RWDSU now has 14 days to file its petition with the NLRB.