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Amazon trade union vote ends Monday, but expects long and controversial count

SEATTLE – Voting for high-stakes and high-profile unions at Amazon’s Alabama warehouse ends Monday, but it can take days, or even weeks or months, to determine the final result.

E-commerce giant Bessemer, Ala., More than 5,800 warehouse workers are choosing whether to apply for the RWDSU. The union push has become one of the biggest labor battles in recent history, even drawing attention to President Biden, who tweeted late last month that workers should be able to make their own union decisions without pressure from the company.

But it will not be decided soon. The first step is to count the votes և In this process, there are several possibilities to challenge the results of both Amazon and the union. They could dispute whether the ballot was properly signed, whether it was real, or even whether the employee voting for it was legal.

“But that is not the end of the story,” said Alexander Colvin, dean of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

After completing the calculation, the losing party can challenge the results through the National Labor Relations Council or in court, which can delay the result for weeks, if not longer.

(Amazon CEO ff Bezos is owned by The Washington Post).

Voting is Amazon’s first in the United States since 2014. The union’s victory could spark Amazon sales around the world,, has already led to more than 1,000 Amazon employees contacting RWDSU to see what it can take. start an organizational disk in their institutions.

“The size of this establishment, which is Amazon, sets it apart,” said Rebecca Ivan Ivan, a professor of research at Rutgers University.

The counting of workers’ ballots begins at the NLRB Birmingham, Ala state office at 10 a.m. local time on Tuesday, Amazon and Amazon և RWDU allowed four observers to count.

This is why workers unite, how they are expected to vote և when it can end.

Why do some employees say they want to unite?

Bessemer workers have complained about their pace of work, workplace safety concerns, and Amazon’s decision to discontinue the bonus payment program, a short-term profit that adds $ 2 an hour to coronavirus checks. the beginning of the epidemic. Many of Bessemer’s warehouse workers are like this, the union is fighting over issues of respect and dignity, saying that this struggle is as much a struggle for civil rights as it is a struggle for labor.

“We are not preparing what we ought to be preparing,” said Daryl Richardson, who picks up items from Bessemer’s storage shelves as soon as voting begins.

To win or lose, RWDSU President Stuart Apelbaum believes that the trade union motive has raised the issue of the role of the workforce in the country – to give a voice to Amazon warehouse workers.

“This campaign has already been a victory in many ways,” Apelbaum said in a statement. “Although we do not know how the vote will go, we believe we have opened the door to more organization in the country.”

What is Amazon’s answer?

The company has long fought against trade unionization. In Bessemer, it claims that workers there receive a starting wage of $ 15.30, which is much higher than the federal minimum wage of $ 7.25. (Alabama does not have a minimum wage law.) Amazon also noted that employees receive a health, vision, dental benefits, and retirement plan.

The company has expanded its rhetoric against critics who have attacked its workplace speed and security data, calling it Appelbaum’s director general of misinformation. «

“But our employees are smart, they know the truth. Starting at $ 15 or more, a healthcare և safe և inclusive workplace from day one, ”company spokesman Drew Herdener said in a statement on Friday.

Appelbaum, which declined to comment on Herdener’s allegations, was not the only target of Amazon’s anger. The company took a similar tack on two of its toughest congressional critics, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Pushing back on claims that Amazon mistreated employees by not paying. its fair share of taxes. The attacks may reflect Amazon’s concerns about the union winning the election.

“That’s why you see a great response from Amazon,” said Cornelius Colvin.

Why do employees vote by mail?

Amazon has been pushing for personal elections by challenging the NLRB’s guideline for voting by mail in the middle of the coronavirus epidemic. The company argued that in-person voting could be carried out safely with appropriate precautions. But the NLRB regional director overseeing the case denied the allegations, citing concerns over the safety of Amazon և employees. And the agency’s full board rejected Amazon’s appeal.

It created an unusual ballot counting process at the NLRB Birmingham office while Amazon and the union watched remotely via video.

How long will it take to count?

It depends on how many employees voted. But if thousands were to vote, the count would take at least a few days, possibly much longer. The first round of counting will only be open for viewing by Amazon և. This is to protect the privacy of the employees whose names will be called when the agency raises the yellow envelopes with their names and ballots written on them. Amazon և can challenge any ballot they deem invalid. Those ballots are set aside.

NLRB will open non-disputed yellow envelopes. Inside the letters are blue envelopes with no identification information on them, containing white ballots containing the votes of the employees. The agency will put those unopened blue envelopes aside for a group that will be counted later. The ballot disputing process can take days, depending on how many warehouse employees voted.

After that, the counting of votes open to the media will begin. The NLRB will open the blue envelopes and count all the undisputed ballots.

So, is that the end of that calculation?

It is not necessary that. If, as a result of the preliminary count, the winning margin is less than the number of undisputed ballots, the NLRB must decide whether the disputed ballots need to be counted. It would hold hearings, allowing Amazon և to challenge the validity of each contested ballot. If only a few ballots are challenged, the process can move quickly. But with so much risk, each side could dispute dozens, if not hundreds, of votes.

“It can take weeks or months,” said Rutgers Givan. “It won’t be a day or two.”

Thereafter, any disputed ballots that the agency has deemed valid will be counted. And those results would be included to find out the election results.

If the majority of votes are against the union, what will happen next?

RWDSU has made several claims that Amazon’s election tactics improperly polluted the process. One of the issues cited by the union is the mailbox that appeared in front of the warehouse shortly after voting began. The union says it could signal to employees that Amazon has a role to play in the election. The union also complained about a financial offer made by Amazon to tempt disgruntled workers to give up, arguing that the company had given an improper incentive to harass union workers. Amazon says the mailbox provides a convenient way for employees to vote, and the waiver offer is extended annually to warehouse employees across the country.

If employees vote against unionization, RWDSU may file unfair labor lawsuits against that և Amazon’s other tactics և asking the NLRB to deflect the tainted election results. If the board preferred to hear those arguments, it would be necessary to schedule a hearing to decide on the claims. And if it complies with the requirements, it may demand new elections, or even certify the union.

And RWDSU suggests that it can do just that. In a statement summarizing the election, the union said the NLRB could set aside the results if the union’s objections showed that “the employer’s conduct created an atmosphere of confusion or fear of retaliation, thus impeding workers’ freedom of choice.” »

If the union wins, what will happen next?

During the election hearing, Amazon put pressure on NLRB-rejected rules, such as conducting voting in person rather than by mail. The company, like the union, will have five days after the vote count to challenge the election vote.

Amazon could also sue the agency for unfair work practices, claiming the union violated election rules. And it could sue the NLRB in federal court for rejecting the election results. The company did not say whether it would use any of these tactics, but Colvin believes that if Amazon files a lawsuit, it could delay the voting decision for a year or longer.

If the workers finally get their union, does that end the struggle?

Hardly the next step for workers can be even more daunting than starting a union. They must negotiate with Amazon to ratify the contract. “If the union succeeds at the ballot box, Amazon will probably ‘build a stone wall around the negotiating table,'” Givan said.

Amazon fears that unions could lead to workplace rules that limit employees’ ability to hire quickly և reduce their ability to meet procurement requirements, which rise sharply և recede throughout the year. Amazon would probably reject any union’s efforts to curb the kind of flexibility it has long had as another way to combat RWDSU.

“It’s a little less obvious – a way to deny employees a vote,” said Ivan Ivan.

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