New York, NY – The good news for workers struggling to become the first group of Amazon workers in the nation to successfully unionize is they’re getting another chance to vote in Bessemer, Ala.
The bad news is our government thinks it’s OK for the company to utilize the same crooked dropbox it used to cheat workers out of a fair election last year.
“The mailbox’s continued existence of Amazon’s property is the symbol of a tainted election,” Amazon warehouse worker Jennifer Bates said this week. “We need to have the mailbox removed.”
‘The mailbox’s continued existence of Amazon’s property is the symbol of a tainted election. We need to have the mailbox removed.’ — Jennifer Bates, Amazon warehouse worker.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) is asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to review its decision allowing Amazon to once again use the dropbox to harvest employee ballots between Feb. 4, and March 25 — so long as it’s moved a few hundred feet from where it sat in the company parking lot during the original union vote.
Contrary to the regional director’s view, the union is arguing that, “There is no neutral location to which the mailbox can be moved since it is still on the employer’s premises.”
Employees still view the mailbox as an “employer-controlled receptacle for collecting employees mail ballots,” according to the RWDSU, “thereby altering the necessary laboratory conditions needed to ensure a fair and impartial election process.”
“I don’t understand why it’s still out there,” Darryl Richardson, a picker at the Bessemer fulfillment center, told reporters this week. “It’s not right. It’s not fair. I don’t understand why Amazon was allowed to do that.”
The dropbox may have been moved to a different spot on Amazon’s property, but pro-union workers insist its presence continues to intimidate employees.
“This mailbox needs to be removed,” Richardson said. “The labor board’s solution to have Amazon move it to another part of the parking lot — how is that the solution? How does that solve our issues of surveillance? It’s there for cheating and that’s not OK.”
Amazon has argued that the dropbox is there for the convenience of the employees.
Bates, however, says that warehouse workers “didn’t ask for their convenience” and “everyone has a mailbox at home.”
She added, “It’s still in the parking lot — just in a different parking lot. There is a police officer who sits in that parking lot.”
Despite the NLRB’s decision to allow Amazon to use the same dropbox for the upcoming revote, the union insists it is not seeking to either delay or halt the new election.
Isaiah Thomas, another pro-union employee who works on the shipping dock in Bessemer, says Amazon has attempted to halt his union advocacy and charges the retail giant is in violation of its own national settlement agreement protecting workers’ right to organize collectively.
According to the unfair labor practice charge Thomas filed with the NLRB, Amazon “unlawfully interfered with, restrained, coerced and/or discriminated against” Thomas “when a supervisor and labor relations employee issued Mr. Thomas a warning about talking to other employees about the union.”
“I’ve been … followed around. That’s insane. I have the right to speak out,” Thomas said this week.
Workers on Amazon’s Bessemer shipping dock recently took direct action inside the workplace, presenting management with a petition demanding higher pay, one-hour breaks, better communication and dignity and respect.
Pro-union workers at the facility insist the atmosphere inside the Bessemer warehouse has shifted since the last election.
Warehouse worker Kristina Bell says last year’s defeat was actually a good thing because it’s given pro-union workers the opportunity to connect with younger workers.
The Bessemer native says “T-shirt days” expressing union solidarity have spread “like wildfire” under the watchful eyes of management because workers are feeling more empowered and are less afraid of reprisal than they had been.
“That loss was a blessing,” Bell said. “A lot of young people didn’t understand the importance of the union. They expressed regret [not voting union].”
Workers at Amazon’s JFK8 facilities on Staten Island, N.Y., York are also moving closer to their unionization goals. The NLRB says the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) has garnered enough votes to trigger a union election and has set a Feb.16 hearing date to consider their petition.
“I’ve just confirmed with @NLRB that we officially have met the showing of interest requirement for petition here in Staten Island guess what NYC prepare for an Election,” ALU founder Chris Smalls Tweeted on Jan. 26. Congratulations to @amazonlabor. Our work continues to break barriers. Now it’s time to Vote YES.”