Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Why Is It Taking So Damn Long to Get the Results of the Amazon Union Vote?

The last day for mail in-voting on unionization of the Amazon warehouse in Alabama was last Monday. So when will we know the results? The short-hand answer is… we don’t know.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

April 5, 2021
Facebook Twitter Share

For those of us watching closely, it’s like the 2020 election 2.0 — but this time without having to memorize every county of Pennsylvania.

While we don’t know when the results will be announced, we can explain why it’s taking so long and assess some of the possible scenarios.

5,800 ballots were sent out starting February 8 for the mail-in vote. Both full-time and part-time workers at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Bessemer, Alabama were eligible to vote and the last votes were received on March 29.

Come to a panel with a Bessemer Amazon worker and Robin D.G. Kelly, author of Hammer and Hoe to discuss the results of the unionization vote. Sign up here.  Find the Facebook event here. 

Throughout the election period, Amazon led a vast and expensive anti-union campaign. Every day, workers were subject to countless anti-union meetings, text messages, and even threats. There were even anti-union signs in the bathrooms, yet there were no mechanisms for the union to get unhindered access to workers.

Counting the Votes

After two months of voting, the ballots were sent to the National Labor Relations Board to be counted in front of observers from Amazon and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. In the first step, the NLRB checks the names of everyone who voted against the official employee roll. Both sides are able to contest ballots and those challenged will be set aside.

Some of the reasons to contest ballots include that a person doesn’t work at the warehouse anymore or should not be included in the bargaining unit because of job classification or managerial responsibilities. Reuters reported that 19 people received ballots even though they no longer worked at Amazon.

Then the ballots will be counted: for and against the union. They are counted twice in batches of 100. Slate reports that if thousands of people voted, this process could take weeks. A simple majority of votes is needed to win the union. The NLRB has not released the number of ballots submitted, nor how many have been contested so far.

If the number of contested votes is high enough to change the final outcome, hearings may be held to have those votes counted. This would further delay results. Both sides would then argue their case for each ballot.

Is It Over When It’s Over? 

Even after the final results come out, the struggle for a union won’t be over. If the union wins, it’s likely that Amazon will file objections to the vote and a legal battle will ensue.

If the “no” votes prevail, the RWDSU will rightfully contest the election. Amazon, after all, used illegal measures to stop the unionization effort. In this case, the NLRB would schedule a hearing to decide if the results should be disregarded because the company “created an atmosphere of confusion or fear of reprisals” for workers. If that happens, the NLRB could demand that a new union recognition vote take place.

In this interim — and we have no idea how long it will last — Amazon workers should begin to organize protests and actions. The RWDSU should be on the front lines of this. If they lose the election, workers can and should force a new vote. If the workers do win union recognition, next comes the contract struggle and another brutal battle. So Amazon workers should begin to fight and organize now.

It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Form a Union 

It shouldn’t be this arduous to form a union. The way the process works now, there are essentially two elections. Workers need to ratify a union twice: the first time signing up co-workers for a union petition, and then, weeks later, getting workers to certify the union. The extensive time between “going public” and actually ratifying the union gives bosses tons of time to interfere with the vote and hire law firms that specialize in union-busting. And the bosses rarely even try to be sneaky or secretive about their union-busting tactics. It’s all out in the open because the penalties are meager. For the bosses, illegal anti-union activities are just good business.

The PRO Act is a start in the struggle against repressive anti-union measures. The proposed law would ban the anti-union captive-audience meetings Amazon used to bully and harass workers, and would also dramatically shorten the time between a unionization petition and the vote. The PRO Act would be a step forward. But as is true throughout history, reforms are not handed to the working class, they must be won through active struggle — mass protests and even strikes. Unions and the working class as a whole will need to actively participate in the struggle to win these reforms, not passively hope that Biden will pass them.

It should be easy to form a union. Every worker should have the democratic right to be part of one. The Amazon example and the long wait for the results only highlight the difficulties of unionizing in the United States today.

Facebook Twitter Share

Tatiana Cozzarelli

Tatiana is a former middle school teacher and current Urban Education PhD student at CUNY.

Labor Movement

From Strike to Class Struggle: Building a Fighting Labor Movement in the Ruins of Neoliberalism

Workers are going on strike and millions are resigning from their jobs. But we should not see the current and recent strikes in a vacuum or solely analyze the potential of these strikes by looking at the working class in its workplaces. This is only half the picture. There is a broader rupture, amongst working-class and oppressed people, with what was considered common sense in the neoliberal era.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

November 24, 2021

“We Need to Take Back Our Union”: An IATSE Worker on Organizing for Change

A retired member of IATSE Local 80 describes the transformative process of organizing for union democracy in the wake of a disappointing contract fight.

Left Voice

November 23, 2021
IATSE members marching, carrying a banner that reads "The Union Behind Entertainment"

“We Feel Angry, We Feel Unheard”: IATSE Workers Speak Out on the Betrayal of Their Leadership

Left Voice reached out to IATSE workers and asked for their thoughts on the newly ratified contract. Despite an overwhelming vote to strike and a majority “no” vote, union bureaucracy and undemocratic voting rules betrayed the rank-and-file worker’s demands for better working conditions.

Left Voice

November 22, 2021

Don’t Mourn … Organize! Remembering Joe Hill and His Music

Today marks the day 106 years ago that Joe Hill was executed by the state of Utah. An immigrant, worker, Wobbly, and songwriter, we celebrate his legacy with some of his best songs. His work lives on today, still performed widely with the same witty, fierce lyrics that rail against the capitalist system.

Kimberly Ann

November 19, 2021

MOST RECENT

Joe Biden in the foreground in black and white, red and blue arrows in the background

The Democratic Party and Capitalism’s Economic Contradictions

The Democratic Party is promising that its spending packages will rejuvenate the economy. And that has helped the party bewitch the Left and dampen mass struggle in the United States. But the economic situation today — riven by fundamental, explosive contradictions — shows that those promises are built on sand, and that we need to reject the Democrats and organize for an independent, revolutionary struggle.

Jason Koslowski

November 27, 2021
A burning building in Minnesota at night. A protester walks by with a flag.

Our Revolutionary Movement in the Twilight of Empire

The uncontested hegemony of U.S. imperialism on the world stage is slowly faltering. The United States needs a coherent revolutionary organization today — united around common answers to the most fundamental questions of the period.

Coco Smyth

November 27, 2021

Germany’s New Government Promises Renewed Attacks on Pensions and Working Hours

Two months after the federal elections, the SPD, the Greens, and the FDP have agreed to form a new government. It promises some reforms, but also new neoliberal measures and increased militarism.

Von Marco Helmbrecht

November 26, 2021
Polynesian president Édouard Fritch at a press conference on November 24

Government Inflexibility Provokes General Strike in French Polynesia

For more than a week, especially in the Caribbean, France’s “overseas territories” have seen a wave of mobilizations against the government. On Wednesday, it spread to French Polynesia, in the Pacific.

Antoine Bordas

November 26, 2021