Amazon is known for fast delivery. But it will take some time to find out whether the workers at Amazon’s warehouse voted for or against the merger.
The last day for the vote of nearly 6,000 workers in Bessemer, Alabama, was the vote more than a week ago. But it may take a few more days – or more – to get all the votes together before the result is known.
The vote itself attracted national attention due to its potentially far-reaching implications. Labor organizers hope the Bessemer victory will inspire thousands of workers across the country ̵
Here’s what we know about voting:
WHAT DO THE ORGANIZERS WANT?
In addition to higher pay, they want Amazon to give warehouse workers more time to rest and be treated with respect. Many complain about their 10-hour workdays with just two 30-minute breaks. Workers are on their feet most of the time, packing boxes, shelves of products or unpacking goods that arrive in trucks.
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING NOW?
Labor historians point to two reasons: the pandemic and the Black Lives movement.
Workers feel betrayed by employers who have not done enough to protect them from the virus. At the beginning of the pandemic, for example, Amazon workers were nursing because they said they had not been provided with protective equipment or told when colleagues tested positive for the virus.
Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired people to demand respect and dignity. Most of the workers in Bessemer’s warehouse are black, according to organizers.
Amazon workers last tried to unite in 2014 when a small group of mechanics working in a warehouse in Delaware tried to get organized. But these efforts were eventually rejected.
WHAT IS AMAZON’S ANSWER?
Amazon claims that the Bessemer warehouse, which opened about a year ago, has created thousands of jobs with an average salary of $ 15.30 per hour – more than twice the minimum wage in Alabama. Workers also receive benefits, including health care, vision and dental insurance, without paying union dues, the company said.
HOW DO VOICES MATCH?
As of March 30, the National Labor Relations Council, which is overseeing the process, has passed voting with representatives of Amazon and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores. The names and signatures were reviewed, but not how these workers voted, which will subsequently be done by anonymous selection. Voters put their ballots in two envelopes to keep voting secret.
Amazon or the trade union can challenge these votes for a variety of reasons, such as a person who is no longer in the warehouse or has a position that disqualifies them.
All disputed votes will be revoked and will remain unopened. From Thursday or Friday, the remaining votes “for” or “no” will be counted. Media members will be able to watch this report live. Which country will win is determined by a majority of the votes cast.
WHEN WILL WE KNOW THE RESULTS?
This is still unclear. Much depends on how many people voted. The retail union said Wednesday that more than 3,200 votes had been sent and that there were hundreds of disputed votes, but did not specify a specific number. The Labor Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night. If the number of votes contested is sufficient to change the final result, hearings may be held to count those votes.
One of the reasons why the process takes longer than usual is the coronavirus. Union elections are usually held in person at work, said Andrew MacDonald, a partner at Fox Rothschild.
But the labor board decided it would be dangerous to vote in person and instead asked workers to vote by mail. Personal elections are usually faster because labor council agents can check if a worker is eligible to vote when they show up, instead of reviewing each envelope of votes sent by mail, MacDonald said.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE UNION WINS?
Typically, Amazon will have to begin negotiating a contract with New York-based RWDSU, which directs efforts to organize employees at the Bessemer warehouse and represents 100,000 workers in poultry farms, soda bottling facilities and retailers such as Macy’s and H&M. But the company can object to the union, delaying contract negotiations by weeks or months.
In the past, labor experts have argued that employers have done all sorts of things to prevent the union from being recognized, including closing shops or warehouses. In 2005, Walmart closed a store in Canada, where about 200 workers were close to winning a union contract. At the time, Walmart said the demands of union negotiators made it impossible for the store to survive.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE UNION LOSES?
The retailers’ union may raise unfair labor charges against Amazon based on the company’s conduct in Seattle during the election to influence the outcome. In this scenario, the union says the NLRB will schedule a hearing and determine whether the election results should be annulled, as the employer “creates an atmosphere of confusion or fear of repression” for the workers. If that happens, new elections may be held.
In cases where the board committee finds that the employer has done something extremely violent to violate labor laws, this could overturn the election results, MacDonald said.
Follow Joseph Pisani on Twitter: @josephpisani