NLRB orders union election rerun at Amazon warehouse in Alabama

By Brian Williams
August 30, 2021

A National Labor Relations Board official recommended Aug. 2 that the April vote against the recognizing of a union at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, earlier this year be thrown out for company malfeasance, and a new election be scheduled.

Of the 5,876 workers eligible to vote, 738 were counted as voting for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to be recognized as the union, 1,798 against, and 2,759 didn’t cast a ballot.

Amazon bosses went all out in their drive to keep the union out, from holding mandatory anti-union meetings in the warehouse to posting anti-union signs in the bathrooms. The RWDSU immediately filed an appeal challenging the outcome of the vote, saying the company intimidated workers.

The union-organizing drive began a few months after the warehouse opened in March 2020. Several thousand workers, facing difficult work conditions, long hours and constant surveillance and disrespect from the bosses, signed union cards for the RWDSU, resulting in the NLRB election.

This was the first union vote to take place at an Amazon warehouse in the U.S., held in an area of Alabama with a long history of union struggles in coal mining, steel and other industries.

In addition to the anti-union campaign by the bosses, the union’s effort to win the vote was routine and lackluster. Union officials relied on social media posts, statements by “friends of labor” in the Democratic Party, and support from celebrity backers. This was largely organized from outside the warehouse, instead of by workers themselves, who are best able to convince those with questions or who were undecided why they should support the fight for a union.

“To win the vote, union supporters need to mobilize all those who would benefit into a broader social movement, like the one that led the rise of the CIO in the 1930s,” Rachele Fruit, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Atlanta, told the Militant. “Unionists — from the mines, steel plants, docks and more — need to lead Black rights groups, women’s organizations, small farmers and others into action to back the workers. There is broad sympathy for this kind of fight.

“They can start today by organizing as much support as possible for the Warrior Met Coal strikers,” Fruit said.

Amazon bosses announced they are appealing the NLRB official’s ruling. It will take several weeks before the NLRB regional director in Atlanta issues a decision, and this then may very well be appealed to the full NLRB in Washington.