Live

Watch CBS News

Date set for new Amazon union vote at Bessemer, Alabama facility

The National Labor Union Relations Board (NLRB) said Tuesday that a second union election for the nearly 6,000 workers at Amazon's processing facility in Bessemer, Alabama will take place next month.

The labor board found in August that Amazon violated federal labor laws by encouraging employees to vote against the union and pressured the USPS to install a ballot collection box that it was able to supervise, leading to a second election to be called.

In a notice to eligible voters, the NLRB said Tuesday that Amazon "interfered with the employee's exercise of a free and reasoned choice" when it installed a ballot collection box and improperly polled employee's support during mandatory meetings.

The second election will take place through secret mail-in ballots, which will be sent out to voters starting next month. The official counting of the ballots is set for late March.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which is hoping to represent Amazon's workers at the Bessemer facility, said in a statement that it is "deeply concerned" that NLRB isn't doing enough to prevent Amazon from "continuing its objectionable behavior in a new election."

Union Push At Amazon Warehouse In Alabama Reaches Final Day Of Vote
An RWDSU union rep holds a sign outside the Amazon fulfillment warehouse at the center of a unionization drive on March 29, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama. Employees at the fulfillment center are currently voting on whether to form a union, a decision that could have national repercussions. Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

"We proposed to the NLRB a number of remedies that could have made the process fairer to workers, which were not taken up in the Notice of Election issued today," RWDSU said in a statement. "Workers' voices can and must be heard fairly, unencumbered by Amazon's limitless power to control what must be a fair and free election, and we will continue to hold them accountable for their actions."

At a hearing in August, an officer for the NLRB 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." 

In a statement to CBS News, Barbara M. Agrait, Amazon's senior public relations manager, said "our employees have always had the choice of whether or not to join a union, and they overwhelmingly chose not to join the RWDSU last year."

She added, "we look forward to our team in (Bessemer) having their voices heard again."

During last year's election roughly 55% of the nearly 6,000 eligible workers at the Bessemer facility participated. Only 738 workers voted in favor of joining the union.

The NLRB hearing officer said in August 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.

The first election drew the attention of national lawmakers, including President Biden, who recorded a video message in support of the workers ahead of the vote. Senator Bernie Sanders, a vocal critic of Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos, rallied alongside the workers in Bessemer, calling their efforts to form the first ever union at an Amazon facility in the U.S "historic."

Employees at the Bessemer facility are roughly 85% Black, and work 12-hour shifts to sort, package, and ship boxes. They earn at least $15 dollars per hour, more than twice the minimum wage. But many have spoken up about the grueling working conditions and the refusal from company leaders to hear their complaints. 

Earlier this year at the rally with Sanders, Amazon worker Linda Burns said she only gets a five-minute break to use the restroom - the time she said it takes just to talk from her station at the football-field-sized warehouse to the bathroom. Burns said she'll get penalized and referred to the Human Resources department if she takes too long walking back to her station. 

The RWDSU isn't the only union that Amazon is trying to fend off. Following the first election in Bessemer, The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the largest labor unions in the country, vowed to unionize Amazon workers "from coast to coast."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.