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Participants seen holding signs and marching on a picket line during a solidarity event in Manhattan showing support for Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama.

Participants seen holding signs and marching on a picket line during a solidarity event in Manhattan showing support for Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama on February 20, 2021. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Union Files 23 Objections Against Amazon for Illegal and 'Despicable' Conduct in Bessemer Election

"Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees. We won't let Amazon's lies, deception, and illegal activities go unchallenged."

Jake Johnson

The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union on Monday formally filed nearly two dozen objections to Amazon's conduct during the closely watched Bessemer, Alabama organizing drive, which the company defeated with an aggressive counter-campaign that observers say was replete with abusive and legally dubious activity.

In its 23 complaints (pdf) to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the RWDSU accuses Amazon of a range of "illegal conduct" during the union election, including threatening workers with a loss of pay, benefits, and time off; removing workers who supported the union from mandatory trainings; and creating "the impression of surveillance" by installing a ballot-collection box in the employee parking lot.

"Amazon knew full well that unless they did everything they possibly could, even illegal activity, their workers would have continued supporting the union."
—Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU

RWDSU, the union that attempted to organize the roughly 6,000 Bessemer workers, argued that its objections "both separately and cumulatively constitute grounds" to set aside the election results that were tallied by the NLRB earlier this month.

"Amazon knew full well that unless they did everything they possibly could, even illegal activity, their workers would have continued supporting the union," RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement, alluding to the union's success in getting more than 3,000 Bessemer warehouse workers to sign union cards.

The union was ultimately only able to convert 738 of those 3,000-plus cards into yes votes, a massive gap that Appelbaum attributed to Amazon's months-long propaganda and intimidation effort.

"That's why they required all their employees to attend lecture after lecture, filled with mistruths and lies, where workers had to listen to the company demand they oppose the union," said Appelbaum. "That's why they flooded the internet, the airwaves, and social media with ads spreading misinformation. That's why they brought in dozens of outsiders and union-busters to walk the floor of the warehouse. That's why they bombarded people with signs throughout the facility and with text messages and calls at home."

"Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees," Appelbaum added. "We won't let Amazon's lies, deception, and illegal activities go unchallenged."

In the coming weeks, the NLRB will likely hold hearings to review the evidence behind the union's charges and determine whether Amazon's conduct merits an election do-over.

After the initial results signaled a resounding defeat for the against-the-odds union drive, activists and organizers argued that the Bessemer election is a case in point for why the Senate must urgently pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a proposed overhaul of U.S. labor law that would ban many of the coercive tactics Amazon successfully utilized.

"The two most important weapons that Amazon deployed against the union were perfectly legal under current law: 1) the near-daily use of captive audience meetings, which were declared lawful by the NLRB after the Taft-Hartley Act's passage, and 2) the gerrymandering of the bargaining unit in the preelection hearings," labor lawyer Brandon Magner wrote for Jacobin last week.

"The Protecting the Right to Organize Act," Magner noted, "would make these tactics unlawful by declaring captive audience meetings an unfair labor practice and by removing employers' ability to litigate the appropriateness of their workers' bargaining units in the pivotal early stages."


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