Home Business US regulator says Amazon’s union victory in Alabama could be overturned

US regulator says Amazon’s union victory in Alabama could be overturned

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Amazon’s landmark victory over a closely watched effort to unionize a warehouse in Alabama could be overturned amid accusations that the e-tailing giant used illegal intimidation tactics to sway employee votes, according to a US regulator.

All but one of 23 objections filed by a labor union to an employee vote on whether to unionize a facility in Bessemer, Ala., earlier this month could be grounds for overturning the election, acting regional director of the National Labor Relations Board Lisa Henderson said on Wednesday.

A hearing is slated for May 7 to review the legal challenges the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union submitted after the vote was tallied on April 9. Amazon prevailed with 1,798 employees voting against a labor contract to 738 votes in favor.

Just 2,536 employees out of 5,867 voted in the election, which took place during the month of March.

Actor Danny Glover (right and former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport (second right) speak with Amazon employees about unionization at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union offices on March 27 in Birmingham, Alabama.
Actor Danny Glover (right and former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport (second right) speak with Amazon employees about unionization at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union offices on March 27 in Birmingham, Alabama.
AFP via Getty Images

In its objections, the RWDSU alleged that Amazon “created an atmosphere of confusion, coercion and or fear of reprisals” to win the election, including the use of security cameras set up in the employee parking lot to record employees who used a company installed ballot box, as well as threats that the warehouse would close if there was a labor contract.

Amazon has denied the allegations. The hearing begins what could be a lengthy process to sustain or throw out the election results. The results have not been certified by the NLRB.

Members of a congressional delegation arrive to show their support for workers who will vote on whether to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, on March 5.
Members of a congressional delegation arrive to show their support for workers who will vote on whether to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, on March 5.
REUTERS

Meanwhile, Amazon announced on Wednesday a pay increase for more than 500,000 of its employees amounting to 50 cents to $3 more per hour. Amazon’s starting wage is $15 an hour. The pay increase represents a $1 billion investment, Amazon said, at a time when workers are in short supply and competition is steep to hire them.

The pay increase had originally been scheduled for the fall, an Amazon spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal.

The company declined to say whether it expedited the pay increase because of the upcoming NLRB hearing or in reaction to the Bessemer warehouse vote, according to the report.

An aerial view of Amazon's warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.
An aerial view of Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.
REUTERS

Amazon officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said in his final letter to shareholders on April 15, “While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees – a vision for their success.”