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Amazon tries to delay warehouse union vote in Alabama

Amazon tries to delay warehouse union vote in Alabama


The company is pushing for the election to happen in person

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon is trying to delay a union vote in Bessemer, Alabama, appealing a US labor board decision to allow 6,000 warehouse workers to vote by mail on unionization. The company is arguing for the election to be held in person, according to documents filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Thursday.

Amazon’s argument is that mail-in voting decreases voter turnout. It says the NLRB looked at the wrong COVID-19 infection data when determining how to hold the vote, using the positivity rate in Jefferson County, where the warehouse is located, rather than the positivity rate at the warehouse itself.

Workers in Bessemer are set to vote on whether to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union starting on February 8th. Ballots must be mailed in by March 29th, and the vote count should take place on March 30th. It will be the tech giant’s first union election in the US since 2014, according to Reuters.

In December, the National Labor Relations Board rejected an earlier attempt by the tech giant to delay a hearing on the union effort.

In a filing on January 21st, Amazon said if the acting regional director had looked at more recent COVID-19 data, she would have seen the county infection rate was decreasing. “If a manual election is improper here, it is hard to imagine any circumstances in which a Regional Director would allow manual elections until COVID-19 is eradicated,” the company wrote.

The NLRB had previously reported the Jefferson County infection rate was over 17 percent in early January, and noted that new cases were rising. Now, Amazon is arguing that not only was this data wrong, but the NLRB should be using data from its warehouse instead. The positivity rate there, according to Amazon, is far lower. “Frankly, it defies belief that, when three medical experts essentially agree that the conditions at [the warehouse] are safer than in another geographic area, a reasonable fact finder would ignore that consensus to concentrate on that other geographic area in making a safety-related determination,” it wrote.

The NLRB could become even less favorable to Amazon with the election of Joe Biden, who has already made aggressive moves to shift the board’s stance toward unions. On Wednesday, President Biden fired Peter Robb, general counsel of the NLRB and a longtime opponent of labor groups.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge.