With a majority of the votes tallied, it has become clear that workers at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama have voted not to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
The tally, which stands at 1,798 to 738, represents a victory for Amazon after months of intense battles both at the Alabama warehouse where the vote took place and in the larger political sphere, where the unionization effort was championed by activists and Democrats across the country. The RWDSU’s victory makes the Bessemer warehouse the first Amazon outpost to successfully unionize in the United States, creating a paradigm shift that could spark organizing efforts amongst Amazon workers and subcontractors across the country.
“Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees,” the RWDSU’s president, Stuart Appelbaum, said in a statement released on Friday. “We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote.”
Amazon was accused by workers of holding mandatory anti-union training sessions and papering employee bathrooms and breakrooms with anti-union propaganda. The company also had a high-profile Twitter outburst in late March, when it began publicly challenging lawmakers and journalists about the wages it pays and whether its employees were ever forced to urinate into bottles. Though Amazon denied the latter charge, once news reports found abundant evidence of stressful employee evacuation practices, the company allowed that perhaps its workers were using plastic recyclables for relief.
On Thursday, evidence was discovered that Amazon installed a USPS box for votes on its property despite told not to by the National Labor Relations Board. The RWDSU will point to this mailbox, among other things, in its legal challenges.
National progressive Democrats and labor activists seized on the unionization effort, as members of Congress and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) visited Bessemer and rallied with workers in the closing weeks of a vote that lasted for most of February and all of March. President Joe Biden, while not naming the Amazon vote specifically, also released a high-profile video that endorsed union rights and name-checked Alabama workers.