Amazon was accused Tuesday by a US retail workers union of illegally interfering in a union election at an Alabama warehouse. The company had been previously found to have engaged unlawful conduct to discourage labour organising.
The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), filed charges with National Labour Relations Board, (NLRB) alleging that Amazon removed union literature from employee break room, restricted workers’ access to warehouse before and after shifts, and forced workers to attend anti–union meetings.
According to Kelly Nantel, spokesperson for Amazon, Amazon stated that it was confident that it had complied with all laws.
The company stated that its focus is on “working directly with our team to make Amazon an amazing place to work.”
Amazon employees are increasingly concerned about working conditions. Some have tried to organize at facilities in New York and Canada. Labor experts believe that a victory at even one warehouse could be a significant milestone that could boost the US labour movement.
The NLRB has sent unionization ballots earlier in the month to workers at the Bessemer plant, Alabama. They will then count the votes at the end March.
In an election last year, the RWDSU was defeated by a narrow margin. However, the NLRB threw out these results after finding that Amazon had illegally influenced the vote. Amazon encouraged workers to put ballots in a mailbox on company property.
Amazon and a group New York workers agreed to terms last week for a union vote at a different warehouse. An organizer stated that the vote would take place in the latter part of next month.
If it loses, the RWDSU could challenge the results of the election in Alabama by filing charges on Tuesday.
The union claimed in the charges that meetings that featured anti-union messaging were required for Amazon workers to attend are coercive. Workers should have the right not to be forced to attend them.
“Captive audience meetings”, as they are known, are legal under American labour law. They are a common feature in employer campaigns to discourage unionization.
However, the general counsel of NLRB, a Democratic President Joe Biden appointee, recently stated that she wants the board to reconsider this precedent.
At 10.8 percent, America’s unionization rate is the lowest in any developed country.
However, European countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Finland have some the highest rates of worker participation within unions.
Iceland is at the top of the list, with over 90% of workers being members of a trade association.