Amazon tipped its hand this week on how it plans to try to defeat a successful union vote at its Staten Island warehouse.
The e-commerce giant filed a list of objections to the election with the National Labor Relations Board Friday, taking issue largely with the actions of the federal agency itself.
The company alleged that the regional office of the agency “created the impression” it was supporting the union by filing a lawsuit against Amazon before the vote. Amazon also alleged it delayed investigating “unmeritorious” unfair labor practice charges, as well as understaffed the election.
Amazon’s objections also allege that the independent Amazon Labor Union harassed employees who did not support the union, trespassed on Amazon’s property and “misled employees by telling them that they would lose their benefits if they did not support the ALU,” among other issues.
The monumental vote was driven by the independent Amazon Labor Union, an upstart effort with no formal ties to national labor organizations. It was led by current and former Amazon workers, who organized the stunning victory in which thousands of workers at the warehouse voted last week to join the union — marking the first successful vote to unionize an Amazon warehouse in the U.S.
Now, Amazon is deploying its plan to fight back against the election results, beginning with its objections. Labor lawyers say the company, which strongly opposed unionization, could try to delay the process of workers forming a union for years.
“Amazon probably figures it has nothing to lose by exhausting every possible appeals process because time is on its side,” said John Logan, chair of the labor and employment studies department at San Francisco State University.
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The NLRB on Thursday granted an extension request from Amazon and gave the company until April 22 to file evidence for the objections. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.
Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in a statement that the company believes the election should be redone because the NLRB and ALU “improperly suppressed and influenced the vote.”
“We’ve always said that we want our employees to have their voices heard, and in this case, that didn’t happen — fewer than a third of the employees at the site voted for the union, and overall turnout was unusually low,” she said.
A representative for the ALU did not have immediate comment on Amazon’s objections Friday, but earlier defended the union.
“It’s honestly laughable the idea that Amazon workers can threaten other Amazon workers because that’s what the company was doing during the election,” Amazon worker and labor organizer Connor Spence said. “We see through it for what it is, it’s a blatant tactic to stall our certification.”
Amazon has faced increased pressure since the pandemic began from workers pushing to get better pay, safer working conditions and less surveillance at its network of warehouses around the country. Workers in both Staten Island and Bessemer, Ala., started the early stages of organizing during the first months of the pandemic, when employees were concerned that the company wasn’t doing enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus through the facilities.
In Alabama, workers partnered with the national Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and held an election last year. The union was rejected by a wide margin, but the NLRB later called for a new election after it found that Amazon had improperly interfered. The second vote was counted last month, and remains too close to call as the parties consider challenged ballots and objections.
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Workers on Staten Island took a different approach. Fired warehouse worker Chris Smalls began rallying workers in 2020, and helped form the Amazon Labor Union last year. Smalls said that the union was stronger as an independent, worker-led organization with an insider view.
Amazon strongly opposed unionization at its facilities, and hired consultants, printed posters and held mandatory classes for workers to discourage them for voting to unionize. Those classes, called “captive audience meetings,” may soon be on the chopping block after NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said in a memo this week she would ask the board to consider making the classes a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
The agency will hold a hearing to consider Amazon’s objections in Staten Island once all the evidence is in.
Amazon objected to an NLRB suit filed against the company before the vote, which asked for a court to order Amazon to reinstate a fired worker.
Amazon said it fired the employee because he was bullying and defaming a female co-worker during an altercation caught on video. In a summary to the administrative judge, NLRB counsel wrote that Amazon’s reason for fired the worker was “mere pretext” and he was actually fired for organizing protests of Amazon’s working conditions.
Amazon hinted at this lawsuit in its statement after the election last week, saying that it was considering filing objections related to what it called the “inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB.”
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Amazon spokeswoman Nantel said at the time that it was “noteworthy that the NLRB is pursuing an ‘emergency injunction’ right before an election when they’ve known the facts in this case for over 18 months.”
The case had been making its way through the NLRB’s administrative court system for nearly two years.
The NLRB defended the agency’s role in conducting the Staten Island election last week. “The NLRB is an independent federal agency that Congress has charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act,” spokeswoman Kayla Blado said in response to the Amazon statement.
Source by www.washingtonpost.com