A federal labor official recommended Monday that a regional arm of the National Labor Relations Board should scrap the results of an unsuccessful union election at an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Ala., after finding that the tech giant interfered and violated workers’ labor rights, according to the union.
A hearing officer in the NLRB’s Atlanta office who presided over the hearing determined that Amazon "violated labor law," the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union said in a statement, and is recommending a new election.
The federal NLRB declined to comment on the recommendation, and a spokesperson said the details of the officer’s recommendation would be released Tuesday.
Both the company and the union will have time to respond to the filings, before the Atlanta office’s regional director issues a final decision on whether a new election should be held, a process that could take several weeks, an NLRB spokesperson said prior to the recommendation’s release.
Workers at the fulfillment center in Bessemer overwhelmingly voted against joining the RWDSU in April, defeating an effort to organize Amazon’s first U.S. union. The vote was 1,798 to 738 against joining the union. Nearly 6,000 workers were eligible and roughly more than half cast ballots.
“Amazon’s behavior throughout the election process was despicable," Stuart Appelbaum, the president of RWDSU, said in a statement in response to the NLRB officer’s recommendation. "Amazon cheated, they got caught, and they are being held accountable.”
The retail giant led a fierce opposition effort to the union drive, installing posters in bathrooms and holding meetings to dissuade workers from voting for the union. But it denied violating any labor laws and said it plans to appeal the decision.
“Our employees had a chance to be heard during a noisy time when all types of voices were weighing into the national debate, and at the end of the day, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of a direct connection with their managers and the company," Amazon spokesperson Max Gleber said via email. "Their voice should be heard above all else, and we plan to appeal to ensure that happens.”
The union filed nearly two dozen objections over Amazon’s conduct in the election, which took place by mail-in ballot and spanned several weeks beginning in March.
The RWDSU said the company “created an atmosphere of confusion, coercion and/or fear of reprisals” which interfered with the employees’ “freedom of choice” in the election and that the results should be set aside.
The NLRB’s Atlanta regional office oversaw a multi-week hearing in May reviewing evidence and testimony over the allegations brought by the union.
“Throughout the NLRB hearing, we heard compelling evidence how Amazon tried to illegally interfere with and intimidate workers as they sought to exercise their right to form a union,” RWDSU’s Appelbaum said.
One employee said that Amazon warned employees they could lose money or opportunities for raises during mandatory meetings held by facility management.
A major issue in the election centered on a U.S. Postal Service mailbox that was installed in front of the facility just before the election.
According to emails obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the RWDSU and provided during the hearing, Amazon pressed the postal service to install the private mailbox at the facility. The company says the effort was to ensure that every employee could easily cast their ballot.
But workers testifying on behalf of the union before the regional labor office in May said that management had access to the mailbox and they felt they were being observed to see if they were participating in the election.
Read more: politico.com