Amazon broke law and should face new union election, labor official finds

August 5, 2021

A hearing examiner for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that Amazon tainted the election process sufficiently during the union campaign at its warehouse in Alabama last April to warrant a do-over, The Huffington Post reports.

The labor union challenging its election loss at an Amazon warehouse cleared its first major hurdle this week, with a preliminary finding that the online retailer violated labor law during the closely watched union campaign in Alabama earlier this year.

A hearing officer for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a report this week recommending that workers vote in a fresh election because Amazon tainted the mail-in election that ended in April.

According to the HuffPost, the finding undermines what Amazon had cast as a clean and resounding rejection of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) by its workers. 

The NLRB official said Amazon spoiled the process for a fair election in two specific ways: The company distributed “vote no” paraphernalia to workers in front of supervisors, which may have been coercive, and pressured the U.S. Postal Service to place a mailbox at the warehouse for the election.

The election was done through mail ballots, and the NLRB had determined beforehand that there would not be drop boxes onsite. Amazon’s insistence on placing a mailbox at work “usurped the [board]’s exclusive role in administering Union elections,” the hearing officer, Kerstin Meyers, wrote.

The mailbox, alone, “destroyed the laboratory conditions and justifies a second election,” she concluded. 

Meyers’ finding does not guarantee that another election will be held. Her recommendation will now go to a regional director at the NLRB, and after that, potentially to the five-member board in Washington, D.C., that ultimately settles such disputes on appeal. 

The Senate recently confirmed two of President Joe Biden’s picks for that board, assuring that Democrats will have control of it by September. A Democratic majority is more likely than a Republican majority to rule in favor of unions in contentious cases.

Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU’s president, said the union supported Meyers’ findings.

“Amazon’s behavior throughout the election process was despicable,” Appelbaum said in a statement. “Amazon cheated, they got caught, and now they are being held accountable.”

Amazon defended its decision to have a mailbox placed onsite by noting that it was the U.S. Postal Service that put it there. But Meyers wasn’t buying that argument, calling it “mere scapegoating.” She noted that Amazon had procured its own mailbox in case the Postal Service did not decide to place one there.

What’s more, Meyers found that the Postal Service, an independent federal agency, went to unusual lengths to help Amazon, a major client, in what turned out to be a violation of labor law: “In an effort to placate [Amazon], the USPS officials at the highest levels jumped through hoops” to get the company a mailbox as quickly as possible.

A Postal Service spokesperson did not immediately provide comment when asked for a response.

Amazon said in a statement that it plans to appeal any determination that the election be re-run.

Research contact: @HuffPost

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