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Amazon warehouse workers move forward with historic vote to unionize

The vote to unionize is currently underway through mail-in ballots. Should workers vote in favor of unionizing, Amazon's 110 fulfiment centers could see similar moves.

Amazon warehouse workers move forward with historic vote to unionize
Image Source: Amazon Workers Strike Outside Staten Island Warehouse On May Day. NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rejected on Friday last week Amazon’s attempt to delay a vote on unionizing set to begin on Monday. The bid to delay the vote was seen as a "stalling tactic" to prevent the company's warehouse workers from taking action against dangerous and unfair working conditions. Among other demands, the online giant motioned to hold the voting process in-person rather than via safer, mail-in methods as the public health crisis still poses a major threat to Americans. The company claimed it was simply trying to make the vote accessible to as many workers as possible, TechCrunch reports.


Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) President Stuart Appelbaum published a statement in response to the NLRB’s decision to reject Amazon's bid to delay the vote. Appelbaum asserted, "Once again Amazon workers have won another fight in their effort to win a union voice. Amazon’s blatant disregard for the health and safety of its own workforce was demonstrated yet again by its insistence [on] an in-person election in the middle of the pandemic. Today’s decision proves that it’s long past time that Amazon [starts] respecting its own employees; and allow them to cast their votes without intimidation and interference."


Meanwhile, Amazon continued to protect its stance, claiming that the firm simply wished to make sure as many workers as possible could take part in the historic vote. "Even the National Labor Relations Board recognizes that the employee participation rate for its own elections conducted with mail ballots is 20-30% lower than the participation rate for in-person voting, Amazon spokesperson Heather Knox affirmed in a statement to TechCrunch. "Amazon proposed a safe on-site election process validated by COVID-19 experts that would have empowered our associates to vote on their way to, during, and from their already-scheduled shifts. We will continue to insist on measures for a fair election that allow for a majority of our employee voices to be heard."


Nonetheless, the mail-in voting process is already underway and will continue as planned. The vote will determine whether Amazon’s Alabama warehouse, where 6,000 workers are employed, will join the RWDSU. The union is an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, in operation since 1937. Should Amazon workers vote in favor of unionizing, it will be a watershed moment for the company's blue-collar workers. The firm is particularly concerned that the vote could lead to similar outcomes across the 110 or so fulfillment centers that Amazon operates across the United States.


The online giant has historically attempted to suppress movements to unionize. In fact, Amazon's Do It Without Dues website encourages workers to "keep things the way they are," rather than having to pay union dues. The company is also responsible for widespread mistreatment of employees. Therefore, union organizers are driven to win the ongoing vote. They state on their website, "Amazon presents a threat to the very fabric of society and the social contract we work to uphold for all working people. Corporations like Amazon have built decades of increasingly bold and aggressive attacks on workers’ rights that have dramatically eroded union density, harmed working conditions, and lowered the standard of living for many workers. And it’s not stopping. The RWDSU has always stood against anti-worker and anti-union companies. Our union will not back down until Amazon is held accountable for these and so many more dangerous labor practices."


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