Politics

Amazon Presses For In-Person Voting For Unionization Election In The Midst Of A Pandemic

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Amazon wants the upcoming unionization election at its Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse to be held in-person, arguing against National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) guidance to hold mail-in balloting in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

The e-commerce giant late Thursday appealed the ruling by an NLRB hearing officer a week ago to allow roughly 6,000 workers to take seven weeks, starting Feb. 8, to cast their ballots by mail to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Amazon argued in one of two filings that the agency’s pandemic-voting policy is flawed, in part because it fails to define what a COVID-19 “outbreak” actually is.

That guidance “reflected assumptions developed comparatively earlier in the pandemic — before scientific understanding of the virus and possible precautions had developed to where it is today,” Amazon says in the filing.

A union spokeswoman declined to comment on the filing. An Amazon spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The vote, the first unionization effort in the United States by Amazon workers in seven years, is emerging as a major labor battle at one of the country’s largest employers. Amazon has staunchly fought unionization at its American facilities, even as many of its European warehouse workers are represented by labor groups.

The RWDSU, which filed in November a petition with the NLRB to hold the Amazon unionization vote, will need to win a majority of votes cast in the balloting, not a majority of the bargaining unit itself.

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