Security guards at an Amazon.com Inc. warehouse in Alabama had keys to a mailbox the company encouraged employees to use to mail their ballots in a high-profile union election earlier this year, a worker said Friday in a National Labor Relations Board hearing.
Kevin Jackson, who has worked at the warehouse in Bessemer for more than a year, said he saw two guards approach the mailbox and use keys to open one of its doors. The mailbox, located near the entrance of the Amazon facility, has emerged as a key piece of evidence in a union bid to overturn the election results.
In an April 16 complaint, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union accused Amazon of misconduct — including issuing anti-union threats, firing an employee for distributing union cards and pressuring workers to use the mailbox to cast their votes.
The mailbox was provided by the U.S. Postal Service at Amazon’s request, and union officials accused the company of having the box installed to keep an eye on workers voting. Federal law restricts surveillance of employees’ union election activities. The union also alleges that the installation of the mailbox created the impression that Amazon “controls the mechanics of the election,” according to an April 30 order from the labor board’s acting regional director.
Amazon has routinely denied an ulterior motive for requesting the mailbox, saying it was installed to help ensure robust turnout. “This mailbox — which only the USPS had access to — was a simple, secure, and completely optional way to make it easy for employees to vote, no more and no less,” the company said in a statement last month.
Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Jackson’s allegation.
The “cluster” mailbox has several doors with locks. Jackson said that when he was leaving work one morning he saw security guards approach the box, after which one of them used a key to open a large box on the bottom labeled “1P.” “What he was getting out or looking for, I’m not sure,” he said.
Amazon employees voted 1,798 to 738 against joining the union in a seven-week mail-in election that ended in March. The labour board has the authority to invalidate election results in response to conduct that could have changed the outcome and prevented employees from making a free choice about whether to unionize.