The union says Amazon has also retaliated against supporters of the union. According to objections, the company sanctioned an outspoken union supporter for challenging anti-union rhetoric. The file indicates that Amazon illegally interrogated another worker who distributed union permission cards in non-worked areas. Then the company fired him.
In addition to the alleged threats, the union says Amazon has taken steps to win the favor of employees. Once the election was underway, company officials reportedly began soliciting and offering to resolve employee grievances, relaxed some rules, and offered pay increases and free products. The union questioned Amazon’s use of the “offer,” an annual payment the company offers to workers who wish to quit, calling it a “threat shrouded as a benefit.” The offer was neither new nor specific to BHM1, but to a former president of the NLRB told CNBC that the company probably should have suspended it during the election.
Asked to comment on objections, an Amazon spokesperson shared the company’s post-election blog post and wrote: “The point is, less than 16 percent of BHM1 employees voted to join a union,” a figure that includes countless ballots and employees who did not vote. “Rather than accept the choice of these employees, the union seems determined to continue to distort the facts in order to run its own agenda. We look forward to the next steps in the legal process. “
There are many reasons why workers voted no. Some workers said they were satisfied with the salary and benefits of Amazon. The local government, eager to create jobs in an area hit hard by declining manufacturing, has courted the company heavily, offering the significant tax incentives Amazon has grown accustomed to extracting. The company’s $ 15 minimum wage is more than double the Alabama minimum, though it’s lower than other unionized warehouses in the state. Some workers feared that they would lose these jobs if the union won.
Retaliatory layoffs and plant closures aimed at discouraging unionization of other locations are illegal, but the penalties are like pocket money for most employers. The abandonment of a new $ 325 million facility with a 20-year lease would be a bigger deterrent, although even that wouldn’t be impossible for a trillion-dollar company to absorb.
However, the RWDSU alleges that Amazon’s anti-union tactics were so blatant that the union barely had a chance to fight. Labor law violations are common in union elections, says Rebecca Givan, professor of labor studies at Rutgers. Penalties for breaking the law are meager and many employers see them as a cost of doing business.
The NLRB election challenges fall into two categories: the objections, related to the way the election was conducted, were to be presented to the NLRB regional office on Friday. Unfair labor practice charges, essentially anything that violates employment law, must be filed within six months of an alleged violation. The RWDSU will likely submit them later. Amazon can also file its own fees, but the company did not say if it plans to do so.
Then the NLRB regional office will likely schedule a hearing, usually within three weeks. During the hearing, both parties can present evidence and call and cross-examine witnesses. If unfair labor practice charges were filed at that time, they could be tossed into the mix or given a separate hearing later.
The regional manager could rule on the objections, or combine them with charges of unfair labor practice and refer them to an administrative judge, who rules on unfair labor practices. Either party can appeal the decision to the five-member National Council in Washington, DC – and that’s when national party politics kick in. Republicans have controlled the NLRB since 2017 and have established a employer-friendly program during this period. They currently hold a 3-1 majority, with one seat vacant. However, Republican William Emanuel’s term expires in August. President Biden may be able to seat two Democrats by the end of the year, reversing control. If the Amazon case goes on for that long, it may improve the odds of any union appeal.