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National Labor Relations Board officer recommends new vote in Amazon union effort

A hearing officer for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined Monday that Amazon violated federal labor laws by encouraging employees to vote against unionizing at its Bessemer, Alabama warehouse facility and pressuring the USPS to install a ballot collection box. 

The hearing officer said the dropbox, which was installed near Amazon surveillance cameras and gave the appearance that Amazon, not the federal labor board, was conducting the election, interfered with laboratory conditions necessary to conduct a fair election. 

"The Employer's conduct in causing this generic mail receptacle to be installed usurped the NLRB's role in administering Union elections," the hearing officer's report read. It added that the collection box "destroyed laboratory conditions and justifies a second election." 

The NLRB hearing officer noted that over 2,000 employees did not vote in the election, a sufficient number to affect the final results. "There is, at the very least, the possibility that the Employer's misconduct influenced some of these 2,000 eligible voters," the hearing officer wrote in the report. 

Roughly 55% of the eligible workers at the fulfillment facility participated in the election and voted not to unionize by a margin of 2-to-1. The RWDSU immediately vowed to challenge the results and alleged that Amazon illegally interfered with the vote by intimidating workers and coercing them to vote against the union. 

The union had also accused Amazon of pressuring the United States Postal Service to install a dropbox at the warehouse after the NLRB had denied the company's request for a ballot box at the site, potentially violating labor laws.  

A spokesperson for Amazon said Monday, "our employees had a chance to be heard during a noisy time when all types of voices were weighing into the national debate, and at the end of the day, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of a direct connection with their managers and the company." The spokesperson added, "their voices should be heard above all else, and we plan to appeal to ensure that happens." 

The union and Amazon now have an opportunity to file exceptions for the regional director in the case to review. The regional director will consider all the evidence in the case, as well as the hearing officer's recommendations, and decide if a second election should be held. The process is expected to take several weeks.  

It didn't take long for other unions to announce plans to organize Amazon workers after the election in Bessemer. In June, the Teamsters, one of the largest unions in the country, announced a nationwide campaign pledging to unionize Amazon from "coast to coast."  

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