The union that lost an election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama this month has accused the company of breaking labor laws during the campaign and asked federal officials to throw out the results.
The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) filed 23 charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Friday alleging Amazon created an atmosphere of fear and confusion surrounding the vote. The union said in a statement that its claims “constitute grounds to set the election aside” and order a new one.
Among other charges, the union alleges that Amazon threatened workers with layoffs or the closure of the warehouse if they unionized, as well as cuts to their pay and benefits. It is illegal for employers to make such threats.
An Amazon spokesperson said the company denies the allegations.
“Rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to the next steps in the legal process.”
Workers voted 1,798 to 738 against unionizing in a preliminary tally, although the labor board has not yet certified those results. It’s likely that NLRB officials will hold a hearing on the union’s allegations, offering the union a chance to present its evidence.
The election results could ultimately be overturned, although such a case could last months or years due to appeals.
Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU’s president, told HuffPost after the election that he believed Amazon acted illegally and the results should not be certified.
“We think there needs to be a new election,” he said.
Even if the results are thrown out, the union would have to win a new election at a warehouse where it just lost. Regardless, the hearings could provide the union with a way to air its case against Amazon, which carried out an aggressive and so far successful anti-union campaign.
In their filing with the board, the union says Amazon broke the law by having a U.S. Postal Service box placed at the warehouse for the election. An NLRB official had told the company it could not have drop boxes onsite for the mail-in election, but the company asked the Postal Service to install a temporary mailbox.
The union accuses Amazon of surveilling the mailbox and pressuring workers to bring their ballots to work to drop them in the box. Amazon says that it did not surveil the mailbox and that only the Postal Service had access to it.
“It created the impression … that Amazon was conducting the election,” Appelbaum said.
In the filing, the union also accuses Amazon of carrying out “an extensive campaign” of polling and “interrogating” workers about their union support, and holding mandatory meetings in which the company told workers “that the union will go on strike and that employees will lose money.”
That appears to be a reference to the so-called “captive audience” meetings in which consultants delivered talking points against the union. These meetings are a standard feature of anti-union campaigns, and Amazon workers told HuffPost they took place every week in the run-up to the vote.
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