Friday, April 9, 2021

Egghead Week: Scrambled Labor

Amazon was able to successfully crush an attempt to unionize employees at a distribution center warehouse in Alabama, with fewer than 30% of workers voting to join the union.
Workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse have voted not to unionize, a major victory for the e-commerce giant but not the end of the fight for labor organizers.

Out of the 3,215 employees who participated, 1,798 "no" votes and 738 "yes" votes were recorded before voided and challenged ballots were counted. Fifty-percent plus one of the employees would have had to vote “yes” for the union to gain National Labor Relations Board recognition.

Although the initial vote has gone against them, the union plans to challenge the results.

"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," RWDSU president Stuart Applebaum said. "Amazon knew full well that unless they did everything they possibly could, even illegal activity, their workers would have continued supporting the union."

The vote count had been going on for over four hours when Amazon reached the threshold needed to guarantee a win, starting Thursday afternoon before wrapping up Friday morning. NLRB staff hand counted each ballot, double checking the count after every hundred votes in each direction.

Amazon and the RWDSU both had in-person representatives watching the vote, which was streamed publicly on Zoom to a small number of outsiders.

The union went public last October, just months after the Bessemer plant opened.

Workers at the facility had raised concerns about intense work quotas, insufficient wages and Amazon’s handling of employee safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Amazon maintained since the beginning of the unionization push that it provided sufficient wages and worker protections, warning employees against voting yes.

Workers were critical of some of the company's tactics, like petitioning to change traffic lights or installing a mailbox in the parking lot.

That latter tactic is likely to precipitate a challenge from the RWDSU, especially after the union obtained emails between Postal Service employees showing that Amazon pressed the agency to install the box just as voting began.

John Logan, an expert on anti-union strategy at San Francisco State University, told The Hill that the mailbox placement “appears to be a form of ballot harvesting and thus a violation of federal law.”
This was always headed for failure, the real test was always going to be the Biden Administration's response to Amazon's union-busting tactics, and willingness to go after a trillion-dollar corporation. Understand that unionizing a company the size of Amazon would have been a sea change nationwide in the fortunes of organized labor. This had to die painfully, publicly, and with gallons of threats. 

The real fight starts now.
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