Amazon union election should get a redo, NLRB hearing officer reportedly finds – CNET

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The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union took issue with a mailbox Amazon had installed on its premises.

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The results of the historic union election at an Alabama Amazon warehouse should be set aside, a hearing officer from the National Labor Board Relations said in recommendations released Monday, according to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The findings address complaints from the union alleging the company misled and threatened workers in violation of federal labor law. The union sought to represent thousands of workers at one Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, but lost by a ratio of more than 2-to-1 in April.

Both parties have the opportunity to file exceptions to the findings before the regional director considers the findings, evidence and party filings and releases a decision. The decision can then be appealed to the national Labor Board, where a panel of commissioners could rule on the case.

The NLRB didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Our employees had a chance to be heard during a noisy time when all types of voices were weighing into the national debate, and at the end of the day, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of a direct connection with their managers and the company,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. “Their voice should be heard above all else, and we plan to appeal to ensure that happens.”

“The question of whether or not to have a union is supposed to be the workers’ decision and not the employer’s,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU. “Amazon’s behavior throughout the election process was despicable.”

The recommendation comes as Amazon faces increasing scrutiny for its treatment of workers. The NLRB has also reportedly considered investigating the company for an alleged practice of firing and disciplining workers who organize protests and walkouts — activities that are protected under federal labor law. The company has also been sued by a group of corporate and logistics employees who allege the company engaged in discrimination and harassment based on race and gender. Warehouse workers have sued repeatedly in an effort to get wages for unpaid time they were required to wait in lines, or time they spent walking to distant break rooms (so far Amazon has prevailed in court against federal wage claims). 

Additionally, working conditions for delivery drivers who work for subcontracted “delivery service partners” to bring Amazon packages to customers’ doors have raised concerns, with workers peeing into bottles, struggling to park and facing a discipline system they say doesn’t take their side of the story into account.

The RWDSU complained that Amazon broke federal labor law in several ways in the lead-up to the election in Alabama, which had the potential to create the e-commerce giant’s first unionized workforce in the US. Lawyers for the union said Amazon unlawfully threatened to lay people off and close the warehouse. The union also took issue with a mailbox Amazon had the US Postal Service install on its premises outside the warehouse, which the company then turned into an ad hoc voting booth with a tent surrounding it on three sides and banners urging workers to vote. 

The mailbox was a metal cabinet with several slots and not a standard blue box with a USPS logo on it. The union argued it gave the impression that Amazon was involved in collecting ballots, which could have affected the vote. During the hearing over the union’s complaints, a worker testified that he’d seen Amazon workers access the mailbox. Amazon countered that it only had access to compartments that contained incoming mail addressed to the company.

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