Labor Unions

NLRB Overturns Amazon Workers' Decision Not To Unionize, Orders New Election

If providing campaign buttons were grounds for disqualifying the results, would any election in modern American history be valid?


Though the election had a clear winner, a small but vocal contingent from the losing faction has spent months pushing wild theories with little supporting evidence about a scheme to fix the outcome. The only solution, they say, is to have a new election where the true winner will emerge victorious.

And, this time, it seems to have worked.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ordered a do-over of a high-profile unionization election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) lost that election decisively in April—by a margin greater than two-to-one—but the NLRB is giving the union a second chance after a dispute that centers on the mailboxes used to collect workers' ballots.

Yes, really. This is a fight over whether a form of mail-in balloting might have affected the outcome of an election.

Lisa Henderson, the director of the NLRB's Atlanta region who issued the board's ruling on Monday, said that Amazon's decision to place a post office collection box near the warehouse's parking lot gave "the appearance of irregular and improper" election procedures that violated the NLRB's rules. Amazon executives had argued that the mailbox was provided to make it easier for workers to deposit their ballots, but the union claimed the mailbox somehow caused workers to believe the election was being unduly influenced by management.

Separately, Henderson also sided with the union's complain that Amazon had "improperly polled employees" prior to the election by making "vote NO" paraphernalia available to workers.

It's no surprise that the NLRB, which has a long history of siding with labor unions in these fights, ruled against Amazon. But any objective view of the election would conclude that the union's complaints have little merit.

If providing campaign buttons was grounds for disqualifying the results of an election, would any election in modern American history be valid? The union—like Sidney Powell and Rudy Guiliani—might argue that mail-in voting is inherently corrupt for hackish political reasons, but that claim has little basis in the real world.

The results of April's election suggest that it was the RWDSU's own failures rather than intimidation from Amazon that swung the outcome. About half of the Bessemer warehouse's roughly 5,800 workers voted, and only 738 voted for unionization. That's about 13 percent.

In Bessemer, Amazon's campaign argued that workers were earning at least $15 per hour plus benefits, and that paying union dues would consume part of their paychecks. Those are reasonable reasons to vote against unionization! And that probably has more to do with the outcome in Bessemer than paper-thin conspiracy theories about campaign buttons and mailboxes.