Amazon’s first US union election since 2014 is scheduled to begin with the mailing of ballots in early February and a vote count starting March 30, a US labor board official said in a filing on Friday.
The announcement brings employees at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, a step closer to deciding whether to join part of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). A “yes” vote would mark the first-ever for a US Amazon facility.
Unions have had greater success organizing at Amazon elsewhere, such as in France, where they precipitated a month-long closure of its warehouses last year.
While Amazon had preferred in-person voting, the labor board sided with the union on a mail-in procedure “because this is the safest and most appropriate method of conducting an election in view of the extraordinary circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the filing said.
America’s second-largest private employer after Walmart Inc, Amazon has long avoided unionization, and it has trained managers to spot organizing activity. A website, doitwithoutdues.com, warns the Bessemer employees, “Why pay almost $500 in dues? We’ve got you covered* with high wages, health care, vision, and dental benefits.”
In statements, Amazon said the website’s purpose was to educate staff about “the facts of joining a union” and that “We will continue to insist on measures for a fair election.” The company added that its rejected proposal for an in-person election would improve “associate convenience, vote fidelity, and timeliness of vote count.”
The RWDSU declined to comment.
The world’s largest online retailer has faced criticism over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting some workers to protest outside warehouses and demand their closure. Labor organizing has begun in different parts of the company.
Amazon, reporting more than 19,000 COVID-19 cases as of September, has said it increased cleaning, rolled out virus tests and temperature checks, and added other measures to protect associates.