Challenged ballots leave outcome in doubt of Amazon union vote in Alabama

The final results of much debated union elections at Amazon’s facility in Bessemer, Alabama, is still unclear as hundreds of questioned ballot papers go to the National Board of Labor for investigation.

The first count showed that a majority voted against union formation, with about 52% of the returned ballot papers voting against joining the retail, wholesale and department store union and 48% voting in favor. Only 39% of the 6,000 workers in the plant returned ballot papers.

However, the number of ballot papers challenged, 416, is sufficient to change the result and will need to be examined by the NLRB before a final count is reached. RWDSU President Stuart Applebaum said both the union and Amazon had questioned ballot papers.

Despite the low turnout, Applebaum tried to push a hopeful tone on Thursday after the last bill.

“Workers here are also sending a clear message – it’s long overdue for Jeff Bezos to return to Earth and start addressing the very real problems his employees face every day at his facilities across the country,” said Applebaum.

He pointed to a wave of recently organized operations at Starbucks, REI and other stores as evidence of the campaign’s effects.

Cars pass a digital sign paid for by Amazon and urge workers to vote in the union campaign in Bessemer, Alabama, USA, on Saturday, February 26, 2022.

Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg via Getty Images


Appelbaum blamed the low turnout on the high turnover of Amazon stocks and the company’s aggressive anti-union tactics, including dragging workers to mandatory meetings to persuade them to vote “no”.

This is the second time the stock is voting to join RWDSU. During the first poll, held in April last year, Amazon easily defeated workers’ attempts to join RWDSU, which was supported by less than 30% of workers. RWDSU accused Amazon of illegal behavior and claimed that the company intimidated workers into voting against the union.

After months of investigation, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) demanded that a new election take place. Workers at the Bessemer plant had from 4 February to 25 March to send in their ballot papers. The NLRB began processing the ballot papers on Monday, giving the union and Amazon a chance to challenge specific ballot papers.

The NLRB also examines ballot papers for a union election in a warehouse on Staten Island, New York. RWDSU is hoping for a more favorable outcome there, especially since New York is not a state with the right to work, like Alabama.

Voting on Staten Island will resume on Friday.

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