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The National Labor Relations Board ruled that Amazon warehouse workers at the Bessemer Alabama can proceed with their intent to vote for unionizing.

Last month, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union file a Representative Election Petition (RC Petition) to hold an election that could unionize around 1,500 full and part-time warehouse workers.

Amazon challenged the RC-Petition, as it claimed the scope of the action would actually represent well over 5,000 workers, not 1,500 as the union claimed. For a vote to move forward with the NLRB’s oversight, it takes a minimum of 30% of worker signatures, but Amazon challenged the attempt claiming not enough signatures were collected for the effort to continue.

Terry D. Combs, assistant to the regional director of the NLRB’s Atlanta region reviewed the request and determined, “We are administratively satisfied that the [union] has a sufficient showing of interest to move forward.” Furthermore, he said the NRLB is working with both parties to negotiate a Stipulated Election Agreement to set the date and method of election.

First US Amazon facility with union?

If the workers vote in favor of a union, the Bessemer Alabama warehouse would become the first Amazon warehouse unionized in the US. Amazon has long opposed the unionization of its workforce on the basis that it is providing a safe working environment with good wages and benefits. In recent press releases announcing new fulfillment centers, Amazon typically included the following language:

“On top of Amazon’s industry-leading minimum $15 per hour wage, the company offers full-time employees comprehensive benefits including full medical, vision, and dental insurance as well as a 401(k) with 50 percent match starting on day one. Amazon prioritizes the safety and health of its employees and has invested millions of dollars to provide a safe workplace. The company also offers up to 20 weeks of maternal and parental paid leave and innovative benefits such as Leave Share and Ramp Back, which give new parents flexibility to support their growing families.”

“Amazon leverages its scale to help support local communities. Amazon has also pledged to invest over $700 million to provide upskilling training for 100,000 U.S. employees for in-demand jobs. The programs will help Amazon team members from all backgrounds access training to move into highly skilled roles across the company’s corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores, and transportation network, or pursue career paths outside of Amazon.”

While unions have long tried to unionize workers at US Amazon locations, the closest the company came to have a small group of workers represented by a union was in 2014 when workers voted 21-to-6 against having the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represent them.

Amazon has also been accused of tracking worker, union, and community group data using technology to monitor and squash unionization efforts at its US locations.

While unions have been active in their attempt to unionize the laborforce at Amazon, how widespread the support to unionize is among workers at the Alabama location is unclear. But it seems at least 450 workers signed the petition cards to have a vote.

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