Amazon held a lead in the votes against unionization in Bessemer, Alabama, as vote counting concluded there today, while the company has fallen behind union organizers by more than 300 votes in a second and still ongoing vote count in Staten Island. Labor experts had expected Amazon to emerge victorious in both efforts.
The Bessemer vote is a "re-election" held after the National Labor Relations Board threw out Amazon's sweeping victory over the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union's effort to unionize warehouse workers there last year. No group of Amazon workers in the United States has ever successfully unionized. The Bessemer vote last year was the first attempt since 2014, and the election in Staten Island is the second. A third election in a second warehouse in Staten Island is scheduled to take place next month.
When the NLRB finished counting ballots Thursday afternoon in Alabama, warehouse workers had voted 993 "no" to 875 "yes" for unionization. But 416 ballots were not included in the count because union organizers or Amazon had challenged their validity, and the difference in the already counted votes is high enough that those ballots could sway the election for the union. The NLRB will need to rule on each challenged ballot about whether it can be counted, so the final election result may not be known for weeks. More than 6,000 workers were eligible to vote, and about 40% of them participated.
The RWDSU will need to win most of the challenged ballots to recover from the more than 100-vote deficit from today. If Amazon continues to prevail, the union may also file unfair labor practice charges against Amazon's conduct during the election, on top of charges it has already filed over the last few months that are awaiting NLRB judgement. Similar charges filed after last year's election successfully persuaded the NLRB to throw out the results and call the re-election. "It could continue for a while" before a result is known, Chelsea Connor, the RWDSU communications director, told Protocol before the vote.
"What we do know is this — this is just the beginning, and we will continue to fight," Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU's president, said in a press conference following the conclusion of the vote count. "Workers here have shown what is possible. They have helped ignite a movement. Their first vote last year opened the door to further organizing at Amazon and elsewhere all over the country."
In Staten Island, the union efforts at the two warehouses there are led by an independent union called the Amazon Labor Union, not a national group like the RWDSU. When vote counting was paused Thursday afternoon and scheduled to resume Friday morning, the Amazon Labor Union held a more than 350-vote lead over Amazon.
Amazon did not immediately respond to request for comment. The company has said in the past that it believes its workers do not desire a union in either location and that it provides pay and benefits that make the company an attractive place to work. “Our employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union. They always have. As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement to Protocol before the vote.