Enlarge /. A union supporter stands in front of the Amazon Fulfillment Center before sunrise on March 29, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama.
PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images
Alabama, a closely watched attempt to organize an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, appears to be on the verge of failure. With around half the vote, 1,100 workers voted against the formation of a union, while only 463 voted in favor.
The National Labor Relations Board is counting the 3,215 votes cast by workers at the Bessemer facility. The union must receive at least half of the votes in order to become the official representative of the approximately 6,000 employees at the Bessemer plant. The count has ended for the evening and is scheduled to continue on Friday at 8:30 a.m. local time.
Much is at stake for both Amazon and the labor movement. Amazon employs a total of more than 1.1 million people, with hundreds of thousands working in fulfillment centers. A successful vote in Bessemer would encourage the organizers of workforce in other Amazon fulfillment centers across the country. An organized workforce could dramatically change the way Amazon manages its warehouses.
"We started talking about unions one day during a break," said Jennifer Bates, a Bessemer camp worker who helped organize the union action, during the Senate testimony in March. "People were upset that the breaks were too short and not given enough time to rest, that they were being humiliated to go through security checks."
Amazon launched an aggressive campaign against union formation. The company published anti-union literature in all facilities, including toilet cubicles. Employees had to attend regular meetings where Amazon made anti-union arguments.
Union elections are usually held in person, but these were held by mail due to coronavirus concerns. As a result, a tight election could lead to months of litigation, with voting slips being cast on by eligible workers. However, if the current two-to-one margin persists, the union may have to give way quickly.
That doesn't mean the organizers will give up.
"Our system is broken," said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the retail, wholesale and department stores union that led the organizing effort, in a statement to the Washington Post. "We are going to call on the labor authority to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and outrageous behavior during the campaign."