The fight to unionize an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama seems like it will never end.
Today, after more than a year of fighting over a union election in Bessemer, Alabama, union organizers with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union have filed more charges alleging that Amazon is once more interfering illegally with the election. Despite the fact that Amazon won the first union election by more than a 2:1 ratio last year, the new charges mean the union fight will likely continue even after the results are tallied in a second election currently underway.
No group of Amazon workers has ever successfully unionized. The company argues that workers don't want to unionize because the company provides competitive wages and benefits; pro-union labor experts and advocacy groups say that current U.S. labor laws are too weak to protect union organizers from powerful anti-union campaigns. Only 6.1% of private-sector workers in the United States are in a union, but survey data shows that American support for unions has hit an all-time high over the last year. In addition to the ongoing fight in Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon will soon face two new elections in Staten Island warehouses, where workers unaffiliated with any major union (unlike the RWDSU in Alabama) have filed to try to become the first to successfully unionize.
Regardless of the results of the second vote in Alabama, labor attorneys with the RWDSU are forcing Amazon to once more battle charges that it is illegally interfering with the process of the election and workers' rights. The charges allege that Amazon removed union advertisements and papers from break rooms, limited worker access to the facilities when they are off-shift and forced workers to attend anti-union meetings. If the NLRB rules that these allegations are true and violate labor laws, the results of the second election may be challenged by the union or thrown out by the NLRB judge.
“While we haven’t seen today’s filing yet, we’re confident that our teams have fully complied with the law. Our focus remains on working directly with our team to make Amazon a great place to work," Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, wrote in an email to Protocol.
The RWDSU successfully made similar challenges after the Amazon victory last year, filing charges that, after months of arguments, persuaded the NLRB to throw out the first set of results and call for a second election. The second vote will not end until March 28, after which the NLRB will count votes and both sides will be able to challenge the validity of specific ballots. Regardless of whether Amazon wins or loses this second election, it may be months before the NLRB reaches a ruling on the new charges and any other fights that emerge between now and the conclusion of the election on March 28.