However the outcome of today’s vote count turned out, there was one thing we knew for certain: it wasn’t going to mark the end of the battle between Amazon and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. With voting having broken overwhelmingly in Amazon’s favor, the union was quick to challenge the results.
The RWDSU was quick to offer TechCrunch a statement from President Stuart Appelbaum after no votes broke the 50% threshold, noting, “We demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon's behavior in corrupting this election.”
Amazon, unsurprisingly, was quick to take a victory lap. In a blog post credited to “Amazon Staff,” the company writes:
Thank you to employees at our BHM1 fulfillment center in Alabama for participating in the election. There’s been a lot of noise over the past few months, and we’re glad that your collective voices were finally heard. In the end, less than 16% of the employees at BHM1 voted to join the RWDSU union. It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true.
While the company was quick to state that the election is “over,” the RWDSU is hopeful, both in terms of future organizing at the Bessemer warehouse and for what the movement will mean for unionizing efforts at Amazon, going forward.
In a press conference held earlier today, Appelbaum suggested that Amazon told workers that they would have to vote against the union if they wanted to keep their jobs.
“We believe a rerun election is going to be very likely,” the union president told media. “I think that if Amazon considers this a victory, they may want to reconsider it. At best, it’s a Pyrrhic victory. Look at what happened during this period. We exposed atrocious working conditions at Amazon for everybody to see.”
Appelbaum’s comments seem to refer, in part, to numerous reports of workers urinating in bottles over concerns about stringent quotas. In the midst of an aggressive social media campaign at the apparent behest of CEO Jeff Bezos, the company initially denied reports, before conceding they may apply to some drivers. Amazon was quick to deflect blame to broader industry issues, however.
“Amazon didn’t win—our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union,” the company added in its post. "Our employees are the heart and soul of Amazon, and we’ve always worked hard to listen to them, take their feedback, make continuous improvements, and invest heavily to offer great pay and benefits in a safe and inclusive workplace. We’re not perfect, but we’re proud of our team and what we offer, and will keep working to get better every day.”
A key part to the RWDSU’s challenge is a ballot box the company reportedly pressured the USPS to install, in defiance of a National Labor Relations Board ruling. Appelbaum said the box “creates the impression of surveillance.”
He added that the union has already been in communication with workers at other Amazon facilities, explaining, “We have already started talking to workers at other facilities, as well, before this election."
Update: Amazon has offered the following statement about the ballot box, "We said from the beginning that we wanted all employees to vote and proposed many different options to try and make it easy. The RWDSU fought those at every turn and pushed for a mail-only election, which the NLRB's own data showed would reduce turnout. This mailbox—which only the USPS had access to—was a simple, secure, and completely optional way to make it easy for employees to vote, no more and no less."