A total of 875 workers at the Bessemer facility voted for joining a union and 993 voted against it, marking a much closer split than the original high-profile election last year when the anti-union side easily triumphed. An additional 416 ballots were challenged by either Amazon or the union — enough to sway the final vote.
The National Labor Relations Board expects to hold a hearing to review the contested ballots in the next few weeks. (Each side was able to challenge ballots prior to the public portion of the vote count due to improper job classification, ineligibility based on dates of employment, issues with the physical ballot, and more.)
Meanwhile, at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, the pro-union side had a significant lead in a separate election whose results were also counted on Thursday. There were 1,518 votes in favor of a union and 1,154 votes against, with an unknown number of votes left to count on Friday.
If either effort is successful, it would mark Amazon’s first union in its 27-year history. The Bessemer union vote, organized with a more established union, took place by mail over a nearly two-month period ending on Friday. That same day, an in-person election began at Amazon’s Staten Island facility, organized by a newly established union. Thousands of Amazon warehouse employees were eligible to vote in each election.
At the start of the do-over election, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which is behind the Bessemer drive, said it had received a list of 6,143 eligible employees, or nearly 350 more than it received last year. About 2,300 ballots, or 39% of those eligible to vote, were ultimately received by the NLRB, according to the RWDSU. That’s significantly lower than turnout the year prior when 3,215 ballots were received.
In the original Bessemer election, 1,798 workers had voted against unionizing with RWDSU, well above the 1,608 needed for either side to prevail. More than half of those eligible to vote this time were eligible to vote last time, according to the RWDSU.
Both the Bessemer and Staten Island union efforts grew out of frustration about Amazon’s treatment of workers in the earliest days of the pandemic and were further fueled by increased attention to racial justice issues across the country. The initial Bessemer drive, in particular, helped shine a spotlight on workplace conditions inside the facilities of the country’s second largest private employer.
Since then, Smalls has continued organizing, turning to crowdsourcing for donations to support the group’s efforts. ALU has also garnered enough signatures for an NLRB election at a nearby Amazon facility in Staten Island slated for late April.
But Amazon has also attempted to combat unionization efforts, including with text messages, signage throughout the warehouses and, before the election period began, with required group meetings where company representatives conveyed its anti-union stance to workers. The latter is the subject of one of several unfair labor practice complaints filed with the NLRB this year. The RWDSU argues that requiring attendance at these meetings, a common tactic similarly used by a number of other employers and one that is legally permitted, violates workers’ right to refrain from organizing-related activities and is asking the NLRB to review the law. (Amazon said the complaint has no merit.)
Catherine Thorbecke contributed to this report.