Amazon Requests In-Person Union Vote in Covid-Plagued Alabama

Cornelia Mascio
Gennaio 25, 2021 Inc has filed a motion asking the U.S. National Labor Relations Board to halt the union election at its Bessemer, Alabama warehouse, scheduled to start February 8.

The e-commerce giant filed a motion Thursday to delay the union election, which is set to begin February 8, so that the NLRB may revisit its decision to hold the election by mail over the course of almost two months instead of through an in-person event.

The NLRB declined to comment on Amazon's request.

Amazon's first USA union election since 2014 was scheduled to begin with the mailing of ballots in early February and a vote count starting March 30. In its filing, Amazon said this decision "reflected assumptions developed comparatively earlier in the pandemic". Amazon has staunchly fought unionization at its American facilities, even as many of its European warehouse workers are represented by labor groups.

Amazon's two filings ask the full board of the NLRB to review the in-person voting ruling and to stay an election until that matter is decided.

"Having a union at Amazon would give us the right to collectively bargain over our working conditions including items such as safety standards, training, breaks, pay, benefits, and other important issues that would make our workplace better", reads a website in support of unionizing Amazon's Bessemer workers. It also said the process would depress turnout, arguing that as many as 29% of its more than 5,800 employees eligible to vote wouldn't do so or would return incorrectly completed ballots. Moreover, in-person voting could disenfranchise voters who have COVID-19 or are concerned about contracting the disease, she wrote. "Both of these factors weigh in favor of a mail ballot election". "The Board, ironically, has been limiting the right to vote through its mail ballot-only approach for nearly every election held since March 2020".

To make its case, Amazon noted that 218 people of the 7,575 employees of Amazon and third parties that work at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus in the two weeks preceding January 7. It argued that a 3% infection rate shouldn't be considered an outbreak. "Our union will not back down until Amazon is held accountable for these and so many more unsafe labor practices".

Amazon had proposed holding the election in a heated tent set up in the facility's parking lot and offered use of software created to enforce social distancing.

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