Amazon Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) faces allegations that it illegally interfered with the vote to unionize its warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. As a result, even though workers voted two to one against unionizing, the story isn’t over yet.
Amazon faces allegations of interference
The online retailer won the vote about unionizing. However, now the National Labor Relations Board is expected to rule that it violated federal labor laws, forcing another vote about unionizing the warehouse. The NLRB is tasked with enforcing labor law.
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Slate argues that even though the agency will probably order another vote and even if Amazon follows the law, workers still won't get a fair chance because labor laws are broken. Employers are allowed to pressure their employees not to unionize, and Slate argues that they are able to "legally rig union elections against their own workers."
To join a union, workers must show that most of their co-workers want to join via "representation election" supervised by the NLRB. However, when they announce their intention to form a union, companies can do anything they want to intimidate and push anti-union propaganda. Some would argue that companies can even retaliate against employees who want to unionize.
Pushing back against workers
According to Slate, Amazon faces dozens of federal allegations from its locations across the country for allegedly firing workers who organized walk-outs in a call for the online retailer to adopt best practices for COVID-19 safety. That suggests employees who organize a call to unionize could lose their jobs, even during an economic crisis and pandemic.
Amazon has been accused of placing employees who try to unionize under surveillance and has even posted job listings for positions called "intelligence analysts" to keep an eye on "labor organizing trends." However, the National Labor Relations Act allows such moves by companies, and they often intimidate employees into not organizing.
When employees started to organize at the Bessemer warehouse, Amazon hired anti-union consultants for more than $10,000 per day. The company posted anti-union propaganda throughout the warehouse, including in the bathroom stalls. It also sent text messages to workers every day, pushing them to vote against unionizing.
Amazon also held mandatory meetings for workers to push them to vote against unionizing. Businesses can legally lie about unions if they don't use forged documents to do so. Thus, such meetings could contain misinformation about them. Additionally, employees who don't attend these mandatory meetings can be fired or disciplined. Amazon sometimes required its workers in Bessemer to attend multiple meetings during the week.
Amazon is part of the Entrepreneur Index, which tracks 60 of the largest publicly traded companies managed by their founders or their founders' families.