A historic union election at the Amazon warehouse in Alabama is currently being voted on. Jay Reeves / AP hide caption
Jay Reeves / AP
Jay Reeves / AP
The hand counting of the votes will resume on Friday in a high profile elections with high stakes This will determine whether Amazon employees in Alabama will form the company’s first unionized warehouse in the United States
At the end of Thursday, more than two-thirds of the votes were against union formation, with no votes more than 1,100 votes to 463 in favor.
A total of 3,215 ballots were cast by Amazon employees asking whether they wanted to join the retail, wholesale and department store union. That’s about 55% of all workers in the Bessemer, Ala. Camp who were eligible to vote.
Hundreds of ballots were challenged mainly by Amazon, according to the union. That means they are not on the current list, but they could play a big role if the outcome is close enough for these ballots to affect the outcome. The legal process for the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether to count the contested ballots can take weeks.
Regardless of the outcome, the losing side should question the choice and possibly try to reverse the outcome.
For example, the union has raised concerns Amazon’s actions to influence voting. One of these actions was that of Amazon Press to install a USPS mailbox right outside the warehouse that the union claims tainted the vote. The union also argues that the PO Box violated the NLRB’s decision denying Amazon’s request to put ballot boxes in the camp for personal voting.
“Our system is broken, Amazon has taken full advantage of it, and we will call on the labor authority to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and outrageous behavior during the campaign,” union president Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement Thursday evening. “But make no mistake. This is still an important moment for the working people and their voices are heard.”
Amazon did not respond immediately on Thursday, but in the past the company has argued that the union does not hold a majority of the views of its workers and does not promote their pay and benefits. About the mailbox, Amazon has said that the USPS installed it for the convenience of workers, while Amazon’s tent made voting “convenient, safe and private”.
A handful of NLRB agents tabulate the anonymous ballots by hand, call each vote and place green slips of paper in plastic containers with handwritten characters for “yes”, “no”, “void” and “challenge”. The trial will be streamed online to representatives from Amazon, the union, and pre-registered members of the media and the public.
Why is this union vote so highly regarded? Here are some overviews of what it is about:
Editor’s note: Amazon is one of NPR’s youngest financial supporters.