Amazon illegally interfered in Alabama warehouse election, union alleges in complaint to federal officials

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AMZNAn Amazon-sponsored billboard urging employees to return their unionization ballots is seen on March 28, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama.Elijah Nouvelage | Getty Images

Amazon repeatedly engaged in illegal conduct that prevented a “free and fair” union election at one of its Alabama warehouses, the union leading the campaign alleges. 

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union late Friday filed objections to the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Amazon of interfering in the closely watched union campaign held earlier this month at the company’s Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse. Bessemer employees overwhelmingly rejected unionization, with fewer than 30% of the votes tallied in favor of joining the RWDSU. 

In its filing submitted to the NLRB, the union listed 23 objections surrounding Amazon’s behavior during the monthslong campaign, including allegations of employee intimidation and manipulation. The RWDSU said Monday it has requested a hearing before the NLRB to discuss its objections.

“The objections constitute conduct which prevented a free and uncoerced exercise of choice by the employees, undermining the board’s efforts to provide ‘a laboratory in which an experiment may be conducted, under conditions as nearly as ideal as possible, to determine the uninhibited desires of the employees,'” the RWDSU said Monday.

Amazon and the NLRB didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The union outlined a range of objections in its filing, including claims that Amazon interrogated and fired a pro-union employee for passing out union authorization cards in nonwork areas, which is a protected right under federal labor law; removed employees from mandatory meetings who asked questions; and disciplined an “outspoken supporter of the union” after he challenged Amazon in mandatory meetings.

The union alleges in the filing that Amazon sent multiple messages to workers threatening widespread layoffs and even possibly closing the facility if they voted for the union. Additionally, Amazon told workers that voting for the union could lead to a loss of benefits and potentially their pay rate, particularly if the union decides to go on strike, the RWDSU said. Two Bessemer employees previously told CNBC that Amazon had threatened loss of benefits and pay if the union were voted in.

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