Union Election At Amazon Warehouse Set For February 8

Miranda Fulmore, WBHM

Instructions for stretching and light exercise are scattered throughout the Amazon Bessemer facility. Workers are prompted to stretch each time they clock in.

Workers at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Bessemer are set to vote on unionization beginning February 8.

It will be the online retailer’s first union vote in the U.S. in seven years, and the first election to encompass an entire warehouse of workers, which Amazon refers to as “fulfillment associates.”

Pro-union signage outside the Amazon Bessemer facility.

Today, Lisa Henderson, the Acting Regional Director for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) who oversees the Southeast, ordered the vote to be conducted entirely by mail. In her ruling, she cited the presence of COVID-19 both in Amazon’s facility and a 17% positivity rate in the surrounding areas.

Amazon went to great lengths to request an in-person election, including free testing for all participants, a sanitized and isolated hotel floor for election workers, and a digital monitoring tool dubbed “Distance Assistant” to enforce social distancing.

Amazon’s digital monitoring tool dubbed “Distance Assistant.” The camera designates green circles around individuals who are six feet apart. This tool is found in highly trafficked areas of the Amazon Bessemer facility.
To adjust to COVID-19 protocols, the Amazon Bessemer facility has created socially distanced cubicles where workers take their breaks.

Henderson said the measures were both “creative” and “laudable,” but ultimately unpersuasive. Instead, she relied on precedent from recent NLRB elections that states “the COVID-19 pandemic indisputably warrants mail-ballot elections in appropriate circumstances.” 

Signs outside the Amazon Bessemer facility

Approximately 6,000 workers will be eligible to vote, making this the largest union election in the country since the pandemic began. The election is scheduled to last seven weeks, providing enough time to mail, return, and process each ballot.

The decision itself is straightforward. Workers are voting “yes” or “no” on whether they want to be represented by the Retail Workers and Department Store Union. The RWDSU is one of the smaller national unions. It’s headquartered in New York City, but it’s Mid-South Council, based in Birmingham, is one of the largest regional offices.

Representatives from the Retail Workers and Department Store Union outside the Amazon Bessemer facility

The union has already tweeted about their excitement for the upcoming vote, while Amazon went live with an anti-union campaign, DoItWithoutDues.com. In multiple statements, Amazon has maintained that the unionization effort “does not represent the majority of our employees’ views.”

Workers will have until March 29 to submit their ballots. Baring a request for review or stay, counting is the following day, with the results expected shortly after.

The National Labor Relation… by Miranda Fulmore

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