The public portion of the vote counting process to determine whether workers in a Birmingham, Alabama suburb will form thea tan should start this week. The election will affect the 6,000 employees of the Bessemer warehouse.
But final results could be delayed because Amazon and the Retailers, Warehouses and Department Stores Union (RWDSU) have the opportunity to challenge it in court.
The public count was originally scheduled to start last week, but has been repeatedly postponed, signaling that challenges are potentially mounting. The National Labor Relations Board said launching the public party was a moving target and depended on how quickly ballots and protests were dealt with.
“The main question that needs to be addressed is who is eligible to vote,” said William B. Gould IV, professor of law at Stanford and former chairman of the NLRB.
Gould said challenges can arise depending on when the job starts, whether a worker is still in that facility’s workforce, and whether managers or supervisors vote. Labor law does not allow supervisors to join unions because they are considered part of management.
“I’m sure there are a lot of challenges that are being launched by both sides,” Gould said.
Elections to certify a union are decided by a majority of votes cast. The NLRB will call the name of each voter one at a time, with representatives from all parties present. If a voter’s eligibility is contested, their ballot will remain unopened in a separate stack.
The NLRB will hold a hearing if the number of disputed ballots is sufficient to affect the outcome.
“If the number of challenges is not critical to the results, the results will be immediately certified,” said Gould.
The historic effort to form a collective bargaining unit, which has won the support of national politicians including President Joe Biden, is also energizing labor organizers in other parts of the country.
“It’s everyone’s fight. It’s not just the fight of Amazon workers,” said Carlos Ramos, an organizer for the Gig Workers Rising advocacy group. “If you strike a clock, if you get a paycheck, that’s your fight too,” he added.
Employees at the Bessemer warehouse, which has only been open for less than a year, called the working conditions “grueling” and expressed concern about the lack of break time to use the toilet or take meals. Workers say they are followed throughout the day and could be sacked if they fall behind on packing boxes.
Amazon said the company pays its workers $ 15 an hour, double the minimum wage in Alabama, and provides benefits such as health, vision and dental care without union dues.
“Amazon has a huge advantage here, as many employers do, because it has the ability to talk to workers directly on company property and use company time,” Gould said. “The union, under the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court, cannot access company property.”
At a congressional hearing in March, Jennifer Bates, who started working at the Bessemer warehouse last year, said Amazon forced employees into hour-long meetings and tried to convince them not to unionize. Bates said Amazon also sent private messages to workers and posted anti-union signs in hallways and washrooms to discourage workers from joining RWDSU, which represents more than 15 million workers nationwide.
Last week, fake Twitter accounts masqueraded as Amazon workers and tweeted anti-union messages before Twitter banned the accounts.
Once all the ballots are counted, both parties can also raise objections regarding conduct during the election. The NLRB will investigate the claims and set a hearing date if there is sufficient evidence to support the case.
The results could be negated entirely if it was established that the employer’s conduct created an atmosphere of confusion or fear of reprisal.
“Whether or not the union wins in Bessemer, we have a strong momentum working in our favor and employers are afraid of it,” said Grace Reckers, organizer of the International Union of Office and Professional Employees.
Reckers, whose goal is to help workers in the tech industry organize themselves, said the “ambitious task of leading a union campaign of this magnitude” by Bessemer workers is significant for the movement. worker in other parts of the country.
She added that a major organizing effort led by black workers also challenges the stereotype that workers in the tech industry are white software engineers working in offices.
“Amazon is a tech company, they also have a huge workforce engaged in serious manual labor, who tend to be low paid workers and tend to be people of color,” Reckers said.
Andre Perry, senior researcher at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, told CBS News that the organizing effort “is part of a larger movement that talks about black power in the United States.”
“When it comes to economic and social justice, black people have the charge directed on so many fronts because we want to and often because we have to,” Perry said.
Perry said the immediate need to address working conditions at the Bessemer warehouse would bring back “the dignity of the workers.”
Amazon sales and profits soared during the coronavirus pandemic, and the wealth of company founder Jeff Bezos rose to over $ 200 billion between March and October 2020. As Amazon increased its warehouse workforce, employees have called for increases, protested the lack of protection against COVID-19, and called for more transparency on coronavirus infections at its facilities.
“The workers who have literally put their lives on the line to get us through this pandemic want their humanity to be recognized and they are doing it by forming a union so that they can be represented,” said Perry.