What you need to know about the number of votes cast by the Amazon union

Amazon is known for its fast delivery. However, it will take a little longer for Amazon warehousemen to decide whether they are for or against unionization.

The final day of voting for about 6,000 workers in Bessemer, Alabama was more than a week ago. However, it can take a few more days or more to aggregate all the votes before the results are available.

The vote itself has received national attention due to its potentially widespread impact. Trade unions hope that their victory at Bessemer will trigger thousands of workers across the country, not just Amazon, to consider unionization. For Amazon, that means a big blow to its profits and could change its business operations.

Here’s what we know about voting:


What does the organizer want?

In addition to higher wages, they want Amazon to give warehousemen more breaks and be treated with respect. Many people are dissatisfied with the 10-hour break, which has only two 30-minute breaks. Workers stand up most of the time, packing boxes that arrive at the truck, putting products on shelves, and unpacking goods.


Why is this happening now?

Labor historians point out two reasons: the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Workers feel betrayed by employers who haven’t done enough to protect them from the virus. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, Amazon workers went on strike because they said they weren’t given protective equipment or were told when a colleague tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement urged people to be treated with respect and dignity. According to the organizers, most of the workers in the Bessemer warehouse are black.

Amazon workers last attempted to unite in 2014, when a small group of mechanics working in a Delaware warehouse attempted to organize. However, the effort was eventually rejected.


What is Amazon’s reaction?

Amazon claims that the Bessemer warehouse, which opened about a year ago, created thousands of jobs at an average hourly wage of $ 15.30, more than double Alabama’s minimum wage. Workers also receive benefits such as medical care, vision and dental insurance without paying union fees, the company said.


How are the votes counted?

Since March 30, the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees the process, has passed a vote between Amazon and representatives of the retail, wholesale, and department store federations. Names and signatures were reviewed, but not how those workers voted. This will be done later with anonymous aggregation. Voters put ballots in two envelopes to keep their votes secret.

Amazon or the retail union may challenge these votes for a variety of reasons, including the person not working in the warehouse or having a position to disqualify them.

All contested votes will be canceled and will remain unopened. Starting Thursday or Friday, other “yes” or “no” votes will be counted. Members of the media can see the count through the live stream. Which side wins depends on the majority of the votes.


When do you know the result?

It’s still unknown. Many depend on the number of people who voted. Retailers said Wednesday that more than 3,200 votes were sent and hundreds of votes were contested, but did not give a specific number. The Labor Relations Commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday night. If the number of votes contested is sufficient to change the final result, a hearing may be held to count those votes.

Coronavirus is part of the reason why the process takes longer than usual. Andrew Macdonald, a partner at law firm Fox Rothschild, said union elections usually take place directly at work.

However, the Labor Relations Commission decided that it was unsafe to vote directly and asked workers to vote by mail instead. Face-to-face elections are faster than usual, as Labor Relations Commission agents can see if workers are eligible to vote when they appear, instead of checking each envelope in which the vote was mailed, McDonald’s said. is.


What if the union wins?

Amazon typically needs to initiate contract negotiations with a New York-based RWDSU. It has led efforts to organize Bessemer warehouse employees and represents 100,000 workers in poultry factories, soft drink facilities and retailers such as Macy’s and H & M. However, the company may challenge the union and delay contract negotiations by weeks or months.

In the past, labor experts said employers did all sorts of things to disapprove unions, including closing stores and warehouses. For example, in 2005, Wal-Mart closed its Canadian store. There, about 200 workers were on the verge of winning a union contract. At the time, Wal-Mart said the store was unable to survive at the request of union negotiators.


What if the union is lost?

Retailers may accuse Amazon of unfair labor practice based on the behavior of Seattle-based companies during elections to influence results. Under that scenario, the union states that the employer has “created an atmosphere of fear of confusion or retaliation” for workers, so the NLRB will schedule a hearing and decide whether to cancel the election results. .. In that case, another election may take place.

McDonald’s said the election results could be overturned if the Labor Relations Commission determined that the employer had done something very terrible to violate labor law.


Follow Joseph Pisani on Twitter: @ josephpisani