Amazon workers in Alabama vote against unionising

In a big victory for online retailing behemoth Amazon, workers in an Amazon fulfilment centre in Bessemer, Alabama, have voted against forming a union, according to an unofficial tally of ballots.

Amazon is the second-largest private employer in the United States and has been heavily criticised in recent years for its treatment of warehouse workers both in the US and abroad [File: Jay Reeves/AP]
Amazon is the second-largest private employer in the United States and has been heavily criticised in recent years for its treatment of warehouse workers both in the US and abroad [File: Jay Reeves/AP]

In a major victory for online retailing behemoth Amazon, workers in an Amazon fulfillment centre in Bessemer, Alabama have voted against forming a union.

According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), 1,798 votes were cast opposing unionising, and 738 ballots were cast in favour.

The Bessemer, Alabama vote has attracted national and international attention and marked the first time since 2014 that online retail giant’s workers have attempted to unionise in the United States.

Amazon is the second-largest private employer in the US and has been heavily criticised in recent years for its treatment of warehouse workers both in the US and abroad.

Joshua Freeman, professor emeritus of labour history at Queens College at the City University of New York, said that that the union defeat could have a chilling effect on other potential efforts to organise warehouse workers.

“It was a pretty big defeat, to lose over 2-to-1. That has to leave a lot of union supporters unhappy,” Freeman told Al Jazeera. “Most unions don’t go to a union election unless they have a pretty big basis to think they’re in the ballpark. And either a lot of minds were changed, or the union misunderstood the situation when they filed for an election.”

Of the roughly 5,800 ballots that were mailed out in early February, a total of 3,215 were returned to the regional NLRB office in Atlanta.

Ahead of the public count, which began on Thursday, each ballot was first reviewed by representatives from Amazon and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

According to Reuters news agency, about 500 of these were initially challenged on a range of issues including suspicion of tampering and voter eligibility.

The RWDSU said in a press release on Friday that it is challenging the results of the vote with the NLRB, claiming that Amazon unlawfully interfered, “with the protected right of employees to engage in union activity”.

“We demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon’s behavior in corrupting this election, ” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum in a statement.

Amazon refuted claims that it has acted unlawfully, writing in a press release on Friday: “It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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