On Monday, a hearing officer for the National Labor Relations Board found that Amazon violated U.S. labor law during the recent unionization drive at the company’s plant in Bessemer, Alabama. As a result, the officer is recommending that the NLRB’s regional director negate the results of the earlier vote and order a second election.
The vote at the Bessemer plant that ended in April was one of the most high-profile drives in recent years, with Bernie Sanders, Stacey Abrams, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez publicly supporting the nascent chapter of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Workers ultimately rejected a plan to unionize by a more than a two-to-one margin. Following the vote, the RWDSU filed a formal complaint alleging that the trillion-dollar company illegally interfered by threatening layoffs or closing the warehouse if workers voted to unionize. According to NPR, the hearing process to assess the complaint took close to three weeks, focusing largely on workers’ allegations that Amazon surveilled them as they submitted ballots at a mailbox set up for the vote:
A major controversy was over a new mailbox in the warehouse’s private parking lot which Amazon says was installed by the U.S. Postal Service to make voting “convenient, safe and private.” But the mailbox placement inside an Amazon tent right by the workplace prompted many workers to wonder whether the company was trying to monitor the vote.
“Amazon [facility] is surveilled everywhere,” Emmit Ashford, a pro-union worker from the Bessemer warehouse, testified at NLRB’s hearing in May. “You assume that everything can be seen.”
The National Labor Relations Board hearing officer who reviewed the complaint filed in April ultimately agreed with the union. The recommendation for a new vote will now be reviewed by the NLRB regional director in Atlanta, who will issue a ruling. (The agency anticipates that the decision could take several weeks.) While an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement that workers “overwhelmingly” opposed unionizing and that “their voice should be heard above all else,” RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said Monday that the union supports the recommendation: “Throughout the NLRB hearing, we heard compelling evidence how Amazon tried to illegally interfere with and intimidate workers as they sought to exercise their right to form a union.”
This post has been updated.