‘They should be applauded’: Bernie Sanders backs union’s appeal of Amazon vote

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union alleges company ‘illegally interfered’ with election to block organising efforts

Alex Woodward
New York
Saturday 10 April 2021 00:02
Bernie Sanders rallies Amazon workers in Alabama ahead of historic union vote

Bernie Sanders, among several lawmakers who visited union organisers and Amazon workers in Alabama during a closely watched union vote, said he supports efforts to challenge the results after a majority of ballots opposed organising the warehouse in Bessemer.

“It takes an enormous amount of courage to stand up and fight back, and they should be applauded,” the Vermont senator said in a statement on social media following the results of the election on Friday. “And let’s be clear, they were up against a company that was willing to spend vast sums of money, and use every kind of tactic there is to defeat them.”

Officials with the National Labor Relations Board tallied 1,798 votes against unionising the warehouse with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and 738 votes in support. Seventy-six ballots were voided, and 505 ballots were challenged. The number of those remaining ballots not included in the count were not sufficient to affect the outcome, the board said.

The 3,117 ballots among the 5,876 voting-eligible workers marked a 53 per cent turnout for the election.

Following the ballot count, the union announced plans to file objections to the labour board as well as complaints under the Unfair Labor Practice alleging that Amazon interfered with employers’ rights to vote, creating an “atmosphere of confusion, coercion and/or fear of reprisals and thus interfered with the employees’ freedom of choice”.

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Mr Sanders said he supports the union appeal.

The union has up to five days to challenge the results.

“The history of every struggle in this country tells us that we do not always win the first time out,” he said. “But I believe, as a result of their courage, workers in Alabama will inspire significant growth in organising efforts around the country.”

The retail giant’s anti-union campaign included text messages, one-on-one meetings and mandatory meetings on the warehouse floor and a social media PR blitz, among other tactics reported by workers and organisers.

Amazon also staged a ballot dropbox in front of the warehouse under a tent provided by the company, which union organisers allege was used to intimidate workers.

The company has not denied coordinating with the US Postal Service to install the dropbox. In a statement to The Independent, a company spokesperson said the dropbox was installed to establish a “simple, secure and completely optional way to make it easy for employees to vote, no more and no less”.

“We demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon’s behavior in corrupting this election,” union president Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement on Friday.

Senator Sanders has repeatedly targeted Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s wealthiest man, over his company’s objections to union organising, as well as his tax obligations on a growing multi-billion dollar fortune as his company sees record profits during the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2018, the company raised its minimum wage to $15 following pressure from Mr Sanders.

Mr Sanders also invited Mr Bezos to a recent Senate Budget Committee hearing on wage inequality but he declined. An Amazon worker from the Alabama sorting facility testified during that hearing.

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