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Amazon union election results should be set aside, union argues to labor board

(CNN Business)Although Amazon soundly defeated the union drive at an Alabama warehouse earlier this month, the union behind the organizing effort isn’t giving up on the fight.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) filed formal objections with the National Labor Relations Board late Friday, alleging Amazon’s conduct in the lead up to and during the election prevented “a free and uncoerced exercise of choice by the employees” and calling for the board to “set the election aside.”

The election, which took place by mail over a nearly two-month period due to the pandemic, resulted in 1,798 workers voting against the union and just 738 for it. Roughly 500 ballots are being challenged; however, the vote lead held by Amazon is greater than the total number of challenged ballots. Some 5,800 workers were eligible to vote.

    In a statement to CNN Business regarding the objections filed by the union, Amazon said, “rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda. We look forward to the next steps in the legal process.”

      Several of the 23 objections listed in the filing center on the mailbox that Amazon installed earlier this year in the parking lot and urged employees to use to mail their ballots. While union elections are typically done in-person with NLRB officials present, due to the pandemic the NLRB allowed for voting by mail, over Amazon’s strenuous objections. ​The ballots, which were mailed to the homes of eligible employees, could be cast in any USPS mailbox. The union had cried foul over Amazon’s new mailbox ahead of the results.

          The company covered its mailbox with a tent, creating “the impression that the collection box was a polling location” and “thereby interfered with the NLRB’s exclusive control over the election,” according to the filing, which the union made public on Monday. Moreover, Amazon “created the impression of surveillance” of the mailbox because it maintains security cameras in the parking lot, the filing states.

          ​In a statement to CNN Business last month as the voting period came to a close, Amazon spokesperson Heather Knox said “the USPS recently installed a mailbox onsite for the convenience of our employees … This mailbox is enclosed in a tent making it convenient, safe, and private for our employees to vote on their way to and from work if they choose to, or use it for any of their other mailing needs. Only USPS can collect the outgoing mail from this box or put incoming mail into it.”

          Beyond the mailbox, the union alleged that prior to the start of the election, which began in early February, Amazon “agents” threatened that workers could lose benefits, including health insurance, or that the warehouse may even close if the union effort were successful. The company also allegedly emailed employees that it would have to cut thousands of workers because of the union.

          Amazon, which has previously fended off unions in the United States, waged an online and offline campaign to combat the drive, including posting signage in bathroom stalls and requiring workers to attend group meetings, known as “captive audience meetings,” before the start of the election to convey its anti-union stance.

          In its filing, the union also alleged that Amazon attempted to stifle some of its workers and union organizers through a variety of tactics, including selectively enforcing social distancing policies to crack down on employees discussing support for the union, and terminating a union-supporting worker for passing out union authorization cards in non-working areas. The union alleged this “had a chilling effect on support for the union.”

          Additionally, the company “pressured government officials into changing the timing on a traffic light so as to interfere with efforts by organizers to hand bill and/or communicate with employees as they left the facility,” the filing alleged.

            In a statement on the election results, which came Friday, April 9, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, said it would file formal objections to the election process. “We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote,” the statement said.

            In a blog post following the results, Amazon said, “It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true. Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us. And Amazon didn’t win — our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union.”

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