Amazon has accused workers in a New York City warehouse of threatening to unite against the new union if they do not vote, a claim a labor group attorney called “really unreasonable.”
A second labor group, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which lost a bid to organize an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, also filed objections to the union election on Thursday.
The U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is giving Amazon until April 22 to support its objection to last week’s election in New York, where Staten Island workers voted to form the company’s first U.S. union. Amazon requested extra time to provide evidence because its objections were “significant,” it said in a filing on Wednesday.
The results of a certified election will help organize labor to become the second-largest private employer in the United States, with the potential to change the way Amazon conducts its fine-grained operations.
About 55 percent of workers who voted in the election at Amazon’s JFK 8 warehouse in the New York City borough of Staten Island have decided to join the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), which demands higher wages and job security. Since the results, more than 50 U.S. employees at Amazon sites have contacted the union, the group’s leader said.
Amazon’s planned objections to the results include allegations that ALU interfered with employees waiting in line to vote, and a long-awaited frustrated voter, Amazon’s filing said. About 58 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in person for several days.
Eric Milner, an attorney representing ALU from law firm Simon & Milner, has denied the allegations and said they will be dismissed.
“It’s really unreasonable to say that Amazon was threatening labor union workers,” he said. “The Amazon Workers Union is an employee of Amazon.”
Separately on Thursday, RWDSU objected to the election in Bessemer, Alabama, where Amazon workers voted against uniting. This was the second election in Bessemer, after the NLRB decided that Amazon had wrongly interfered in the first competition there last year. The most recent results are hundreds of challenging ballots and are now pending in light of RWDSU’s objections, which could delay the results by several months.
Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said: “We want our employees to be heard, and we hope the NLRB counts every legitimate vote.”
In a filing, RWDSU stated that Amazon had illegally removed pro-union literature from the non-work area and, among other objections, fired an employee who spoke on behalf of the union during a mandatory work meeting. RWDSU said these were the basis for setting aside the NLRB results.
The union communicates with workers about the use of a mailbox on such warehouse property, adding that its filing objection is an ideal procedure.
John Logan, a labor professor at San Francisco State University, says retailers face a high barrier to showing that New York unions have violated employee engagement rules that have affected results.
In addition, the NLRB generally considers employers’ alleged violations to be more serious than alleged wrongdoing by unions because companies have more power over employees, he said.
“It’s going to be really hard for Amazon,” he said.
Thomson Reuters 2022