Amazon leads in early counting of union election in Alabama


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.Elijah Nouvelage | Getty Images

Counting began on Thursday in the unionization vote for workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, culminating months of a hard fought effort to organize one of the e-commerce giant’s U.S. facilities for the first time.

As of early Thursday evening, Amazon was winning the vote by approximately a 2-1 margin. There were still thousands of votes left to count, and the counting process could extend into Friday or later. There were also hundreds of contested ballots, most of which were challenged by Amazon.

Approximately 5,800 workers at the Bessemer warehouse, known as BHM1, were eligible to cast ballots to decide whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Roughly 55% of the eligible workers cast ballots in the election.

Even after the votes are counted, the election may be far from over. Further legal challenges could be in store, as either side can file objections to the NLRB over conduct during the election or appeal the ruling to the NLRB board in Washington. Those processes typically involve hearings in front of the NLRB, which would likely draw out the election by many months.

The vote caps off months of intense campaigning by both Amazon and the RWDSU. Last November, workers at the Bessemer facility filed notice to hold a union election. Amazon initially sought to delay the vote and has steadfastly opposed the union via a website, widely distributed flyers and text messages to employees, as well as mandatory meetings, in which it encouraged employees to “vote NO.”

RWDSU organizers were stationed outside the Bessemer facility daily, hoping to catch workers at the end of their shifts to pledge support for the union. By mid-January, more than 3,000 workers at the facility signed cards authorizing the RWDSU to represent them, although some have since left Amazon. Support for the campaign rolled in from out of state, including a critical endorsement from President Joe Biden, who, without naming Amazon, discouraged any employer interference