Next month NLRB will consider union's request to set aside results of Amazon unionization vote

(AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

Earlier this month activists lost their battle to unionize workers at a warehouse in Alabama. The results, as Ed noted at the time, were not close. The final tally announced by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was 738 votes in favor of the union and 1,798 against. Naturally the union is refusing to take the L and has instead filed a formal complaint alleging all sorts of misbehavior by Amazon, 23 counts in fact.

Several of the 23 objections listed in the filing center on the mailbox that Amazon installed earlier this year in the parking lot and urged employees to use to mail their ballots. While union elections are typically done in-person with NLRB officials present, due to the pandemic the NLRB allowed for voting by mail, over Amazon’s strenuous objections. ​The ballots, which were mailed to the homes of eligible employees, could be cast in any USPS mailbox. The union had cried foul over Amazon’s new mailbox ahead of the results.

The company covered its mailbox with a tent, creating “the impression that the collection box was a polling location” and “thereby interfered with the NLRB’s exclusive control over the election,” according to the filing, which the union made public on Monday. Moreover, Amazon “created the impression of surveillance” of the mailbox because it maintains security cameras in the parking lot, the filing states.

Unless the surveillance cameras have x-ray vision and can see inside the sealed envelopes to read people’s ballots I don’t see how that could matter. In fact it turns out most of the people dropping off ballots were on Amazon’s side. But the union is simultaneously complaining about a tent over the mailbox which would have given people more privacy.

There’s much more in the complaint, including the claim that Amazon asked the city to change the timing of a traffic light to prevent union organizers from handing out pamphlets. The union also claims that Amazon threatened people with layoffs or loss of health insurance. But Amazon has denied many of the specific claims.

Amazon spokeswoman Heather Knox said that the company did not threaten layoffs and that she couldn’t verify if an employee was fired without a name. She said the mailbox was installed to make it easier for employees to vote and that only the U.S. Postal Service had access to it.

“Rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda,” Knox said in a statement. “We look forward to the next steps in the legal process.”

The NLRB announced today it will hold a hearing on May 7 to consider the union’s complaints. So what outcome is likely from all of this? Not much according to a dean at Cornell university’s school of labor relations:

Alex Colvin, the dean of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said these types of cases can take a year or more to resolve. Even if a union wins, the penalties for the employer are weak, like it could be forced to post a notice saying employees have a right to form a union. He said the labor board could hold another election, but at workplaces where turnover is high like at Amazon, the employees might no longer be around. Overturning the results are rare, Colvin said.

Given the lopsided victory here, it seems very unlikely the NLRB would agree to set aside the results. Honestly, I doubt even the union believes that’s possible. I think this is really about PR at this point. They took a bit hit and now they’re hoping to claim some kind of moral victory by asking the NLRB to give Amazon a slap on the wrist for something. Doesn’t even matter what it is at this point, they just need some small victory on which to hang their claims that Amazon cheated.

This is the basic progressive ratchet in action. Find some small fault and magnify it out of all proportion. And the media will likely go along with it. Every pro-union progressive scribe will forevermore highlight that the NLRB concluded Amazon did X, and forget to mention that it was one of 23 mostly absurd complaints and that no one thinks it really made a difference. The stories will write themselves, the union just needs the NLRB to give them something to frame it around.

Of course it would be great if the NLRB would conclude the union was an absurd clown show that had it’s rear handed to it in a fair election but that’s probably too much to hope for during the Biden administration.