January 21, 2021

Amazon moves closer to facing its first unionization vote in six years


A worker loads customer orders into a waiting tractor-trailer inside the million-square foot Amazon distribution warehouse that opened last fall in Fall River, MA on Mar. 23, 2017.

John Tlumacki | Boston Globe | Getty Images

Amazon and a retail union looking to represent some of the company’s Alabama warehouse workers reached an agreement Tuesday on the size of a potential bargaining unit, bringing the union one step closer to an election.  

If successful, the Alabama union drive would establish the first-ever labor union representation at a U.S. Amazon facility. 

Unions have a stronger foothold among some of Amazon’s European workforce, but the company has largely managed to thwart organizing efforts in the U.S. However, in recent years, protests tied to Prime Day and other events, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, have hinted at rising organizing efforts across the country. Amazon hasn’t faced a substantial union vote since 2014, when repair technicians at a Delaware warehouse failed to garner enough votes to form a union.

Tuesday’s agreement capped off a three-day long hearing in front of the National Labor Relations Board, during which lawyers for Amazon and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union ironed out details around what employees should be allowed to vote in the election. 

Last month, workers at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Ala., notified the NLRB of their plans to hold a vote on whether to be represented by the RWDSU. In its petition, the union said the bargaining unit would cover 1,500 full- and part-time workers at the facility.

The NLRB last week said it found “sufficient showing” for a vote. Amazon said additional workers should be allowed to vote, arguing the facility employs 5,700 people.

On Tuesday, Amazon and the union came to a consensus to include a broader range of employees in the proposed bargaining unit, including seasonal employees brought on to help handle holiday demand, along with other positions concerning onsite medical care, training and safety, among other fields. It means that thousands of additional employees will be eligible to participate in the election.  

Now, it’s up to the board to determine when and how the union vote will be held. The board is expected to issue a decision directing the election in early to mid-January, which means a vote likely won’t take place until later that month. 

Amazon and union still at odds over election venue



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