In Bessemer, AL employees of the Amazon Fulfillment Center-BHM1 were fighting to unionize to achieve a better working environment. Voting ended for warehouse workers on Mon. March 29. The vote concluded that BHM1 will not be able to unionize. Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union (RWDSU) plans to challenge the election results. The union intends to file objections over Amazon’s unfair labor practice charges and their election conduct with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Before the voting occurred, Amazon was doing everything in their power to prevent a win for workers. Starting an anti-union campaign, Amazon would send messages encouraging workers to vote no. There was a website urging to “do it without dues”. In bathrooms they would post anti-union flyers on the stalls. In the facility, there would be mandatory meetings to persuade voters to vote abasing. Even passing out pamphlets instructing to “Vote NO”.
Some employees have said that the company would slash benefits and threatened the to shut down the warehouse if the union were to pass. Amazon had also prevented union supporters from entering the warehouse to talk to workers and forbid workers from talking about it while they were on the clock. Currently, they are under investigation for illegally firing pro-union workers for their advocacy.
More controversial was the illegal installment of a mailbox by Amazon on company property. NLRB had agreed to a secret ballot for employees to ensure their privacy. The company ignored their ruling and allegedly had USPS to install the drop box outside the warehouse. Due to the pandemic, majority of the voting for the election was through mail-in-ballots. Some thought the box was there for the collection of those ballots. Many believed it was installed there to track the employees that voted no to the union, others didn’t trust putting their ballot for fear it would “get lost”.
BHM1 opened last March, but as summer began workers became frustrated at the poor working conditions they were put in. Employees were put under stressful, dehumanizing working conditions and didn’t have enough break times to go to the bathroom. Amazon would track each employees moves in the facility to monitor whether or not each person was on task or not. And if an employee did not keep up with a certain pace and quota then there was the threat of them being fired not doing so. It has even been said that some truck drivers had resorted to peeing in bottles and defacing in bags. Amazon at first denied the claim but now has since apologized for the denial.
This is not the first time Amazon almost had a union in the United States. Back in 2014 in Middletown, DE, a small group of Amazon technicians had the chance to unionize, but ultimately voted against the formation. Employees said that there were anti-union consultants and pressures from managers at the center, but other Amazon spokesmen have said this decision, was their choice.