Amazon Warehouse in Alabama Prepares to Start Second Coalition Elections

During the first union election at Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse, early last year, organizers largely avoided visiting workers at home because Covid was raging and few Americans were vaccinated.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union believes the precaution is prudent even if it makes it harder to convince workers and may have contributed to the union deviant failure.

On Friday, the National Labor Relations Board will mail ballots to workers at the same warehouse in a so-called reelection election, which the agency command after discovering that Amazon misbehaved during the last campaign.

But for this election that runs through March 25, the labor movement is having little punch. Several national unions sent dozens of organizers to Bessemer to help the workers rally. And organizers and workers have spent months going door-to-door building support for the union.

“It’s a big difference that can be made through vaccinations,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of retail workers. “By the time people start voting on Monday or Tuesday, we’ll be door-to-door – all 6,000 workers.”

However, none of those changes make the likelihood of a different outcome high. Unions have won less than half in similar re-election elections since late 2010, compared with more than a half of all elections during that period, according to data from the National Labor Relations Board.

“In cases where the odds of winning are sizable one way or another, the outcome is often the same the second time around,” said David Pryzbylski, a management side attorney at Barnes & Thornburg.

Those disparities could persist at a company like Amazon, which has the resources to hire consultants and instill anti-union messages in its workers, as has happened in the past. last election.

Sales at Amazon are high – more than 150 percent a year even before the recent surge in job vacancies across the country – and that could cause uncertainty as it’s unclear how new workers will react to arguments by both sides.

Rebecca Givan, a professor of labor studies at Rutgers University, said such a turnaround could in fact further reduce union support, as frustrated workers may walk away. instead of waiting for a campaign. Many pro-union workers have complained about penalizing productivity targets, insufficient time off, and low wages, just under $16 an hour for a typical full-time, entry-level position. to enter.

“We pride ourselves on creating both short-term and long-term jobs with great pay and great benefits,” said Barbara Agrait, an Amazon spokeswoman. She added that employees get access to health benefits as soon as they join the company, and more than 450 employees have been promoted at the Alabama warehouse since it opened in 2020.

Amazon has previously said that its operational goals take into account the safety and experience of its employees.

For Amazon, the company is facing challenges with its labor model on many fronts, there was little incentive to reduce its resistance to the union. Last year, California passed a law that would limit the use of productivity goals by the company and about 1.4 million members of the international fraternity. elect a new president who has promised to make a large investment in the consolidation of the company.

Amazon also faces the prospect of at least one more union election this year. At the end of January, the labor department determined that organizers at JFK8, a large warehouse on Staten Island, had submitted enough signatures to warrant a vote. Organizers are trying to form a new union, called the Amazon Labor Federation, instead of working with established groups. The labor board will hold a hearing in mid-February to determine how many workers may be eligible to vote, as well as the timing and terms of the election.

This week, the same union filed to vote at a neighboring Amazon facility on Staten Island.

In many ways, the mechanics of the Alabama modifier will be similar to that of the original election. Although both the association and Amazon pressed to vote in personalthough in an off-site location in the union’s case, the labor council decided to conduct another election by mail because of the pandemic.

Practice changes that labor councils quote when the nullification of the last election remained in place, prompting the union to urge a change in the way new elections were conducted. No less important is the so-called collection box that Amazon lobbying Last year, the U.S. Postal Service installed an installation near the entrance to the warehouse, where workers were urged to submit their ballots.

Amazon says it looks for a collection box to help workers vote securely, and that they don’t have access to ballots deposited inside it. But a regional director of the labor council discovered that Amazon had essentially “stealed the process” by buying the box. “This dangerous and improper message to employees undermines confidence in board processes and the reliability of election results,” said regional director Written.

In the run-up to the revision, however, the regional director allowed the Post Office to simply move the box to a “neutral location” at the warehouse, rather than remove it altogether. The union argued in an appeal request that there is no neutral position on the site and that the new location remains within the sights of Amazon’s surveillance cameras. A decision on an appeal may be made during or after the election.

Some employees also said that despite achieving nationwide settlement With the labor council in December to give union advocates more access to colleagues while at work, Amazon is still making it difficult for them to make their case where they work.

Isaiah Thomas, a shipyard worker at the warehouse, recently received a letter from management stating that he had violated company policy on solicitation when speaking to colleagues about unions during his he quit, even though the company didn’t officially discipline him for the allegations. violation.

“You have interfered with fellow associates during their employment, in their field of work,” the letter read. The union filed an allegation of unfair labor practices, arguing that the letter violated the company’s settlement with the labor council.

However, the circumstances of the second election appear to differ from those of the first in several key respects. For one thing, was the fact that the labor panel’s finding that Amazon had violated union election rules, organizers said, came up frequently in conversations with workers.

Appelbaum, the union president, said the on-base presence of other unions was essentially higher than last year, thanks in part to the urging of Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, which includes the union. retail workers. individual.

Even non-AFL unions such as the Service Employees International Union and The Study Group sent organizers to Alabama, emphasizing the high stakes for labor.

“I think there is a recognition of the importance and transcendence of this war,” Mr. Appelbaum said. “People throughout the labor movement understand that we cannot let Amazon defy it, or else it will set the model for what the future of work will look like.”

He said that this time workers feel less threatened by Amazon, with many of them speaking out in forced anti-union meetings. Pro-union workers also now wear T-shirts advertising their support for the union twice a week to show solidarity.

A group of workers recently submitted a petition with more than 100 signatures to managers complaining about poor treatment, low pay and insufficient time off, and damage to equipment in the workplace. room. Agrait, an Amazon spokeswoman, said the company encourages regular communication between workers and management.

Mr. Thomas, a dock worker, spends two days a week knocking on his colleagues’ doors and said in an interview that many workers who voted against the union last year said they were in favor this time around. you did not continue. promise to act on their feedback.

“A lot of people said they wanted to give Amazon a chance, but they didn’t come to an agreement in the end,” he said. “Now they really want to help form this union.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/04/business/amazon-alabama-union-election.html Amazon Warehouse in Alabama Prepares to Start Second Coalition Elections

Fry Electronics Team

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