By Nelson Cary and Alex Ehler
Amazon has defeated the largest labor drive in the company’s history. Today, the NLRB completed a vote count in an election involving employees at Amazon’s facility in Bessemer, Alabama, which employs nearly 6,000 people. Of these nearly 6,000 people, 3,041 mailed in their ballots indicating whether they wished to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
The results were remarkably lopsided, with 1,798 employees voting against the Union and 738 voting for the Union. Although there were also 76 void ballots and 505 challenged ballots, the NLRB noted that the number of challenges is not sufficient to change the results of the election.
The election results deliver what many are calling a win for Amazon. For its part, Amazon released a statement maintaining that “Amazon didn’t win–our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union.”
Stuart Appelbaum, President of the RWDSU, also released a statement, promising to challenge the election results. Appelbaum asserted that Amazon “left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees.” Appelbaum also claimed lies, deception, and illegal activities on the part of Amazon, demanding “a comprehensive investigation over Amazon’s behavior in corrupting this election.” In its statement, Amazon retorted that its employees “heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us.”
The parties have five business days to file objections contesting the conduct or results of the election. The Appelbaum statement says the RWDSU will do exactly that.
Leading up to the election, the Union effort received support from across the political spectrum, including President Joe Biden (D), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Amazon has also faced scrutiny for allegedly quashing labor activism and for what many consider its disproportionate market power and influence.
Many of Amazon’s employees at the Bessemer facility explain, however, that they voluntarily voted against the RWDSU because Amazon already provided them with relatively high pay, opportunities to advance, and good benefits. Because of Amazon’s message of offering good jobs and competitive wages, some are seeing the election’s outcome as a vindication and a “bellwether” likely to make organized labor reconsider its efforts to represent Amazon employees.
For the labor professional, the results of this election certainly suggest that successful union organizing, particularly in large units and even with widespread public or political support, is not a foregone conclusion. The views that matter are those of the employees voting. And, on that issue, the Amazon results serve as a cautionary tale for other employers about considerations that at least some employees view as significant when deciding how to vote in a union election.