While the recent push to unionize Amazon
Amazon has argued in a statement that they "didn't win" this vote, but rather that it showed that employees' "collective voices were finally heard."
Still, while they may try to imply otherwise, Amazon pushed hard to get this union effort defeated. Now, their methods are coming under fire.
"Amazon's tactics during the campaign and voting process were successful for them but now are being questioned legally and in the public view," assistant professor of management at Syracuse University, Lynne Vincent, told Insider.
Those tactics included plastering their warehouse with anti-union posters, holding lengthy mandatory anti-union "information sessions," and pushing the Postal Service to put a new mailbox for sending votes outside the facility itself. In fact, the mailbox was placed inside a company tent, leading workers to wonder whether or not their votes were being monitored by the company itself.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union has argued that this mailbox went against directives put in place by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and that this tactic and others created an "atmosphere of confusion, coercion and/or fear of reprisals."
"We're really seeing how the balance is always tipped in favor of employers," a labor studies professor at Rutgers University, Rebecca Givan, told NPR. "Organizing a union under current labor law is extremely challenging - the odds are always stacked against you."
In fact, a professor of management at MIT told Insider that 90% of unionizing efforts fail when management is opposed to that effort. This despite the fact that 65% of Americans support unions, the highest support in 20 years, according to an August Gallup poll.
Amazon's anti-union efforts go far beyond informational sessions and posters. They hired well-known anti-union private detectives, tracked the risk of unionization using a "heat map," spied on their workers' private Facebook
Even before pushing for the warehouse mailbox, Amazon tried twice to get the NLRB to hold an in-person-only vote, rather than allowing mail-in voting. This makes their argument in favor of the warehouse mailbox, that it was "for the convenience of our employees," somewhat dubious.
Amazon's anti-union campaigning also led some employees to believe that, if the vote passed, they would be forced to pay dues whether they themselves joined the union or not. This is completely false: Alabama is a right-to-work state meaning that employees only pay dues if they join the union themselves.
Amazon has claimed that their efforts simply "provided education that helps employees understand the facts of joining a union."
Again, the retail union is challenging the vote with the NLRB. If they are successful, the vote could be overturned.
Labor experts say that this vote is likely to have a number of widespread effects far beyond Amazon itself. First, other anti-union businesses will have a few great examples of successful union-busting tactics. As unionizing efforts become more common, we're likely to see more businesses attempting to create a similar atmosphere of anti-union pressure.
Second, this vote is likely to encourage lawmakers to reexamine labor laws and potentially outlaw these tactics.
While the NLRB under former President Donald Trump "systematically rolled back workers' rights," President Joe Biden signaled support for pro-union organizers in Bessemer, stating that there should be no "intimidation," "coercion," "threats," nor "anti-union propaganda." Even Republican lawmakers have come out in support of unions, including Senator Marco Rubio.
The House has actually already passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a law which would help to balance the playing field between pro-union employees and employers, but the act is likely to face considerable pushback in the Senate.
"The PRO Act is a path to supporting the rights of working people, and politicians who claim to be on the side of working people will be asked to show this support by fixing our broken labor law," Givan told CNN Business.
Amongst Amazon workers, this isn't likely to be the end of unionization efforts. Other warehouses across the country may have better luck fighting against the giant company, but the current power imbalance makes that somewhat unlikely.
In France, where labor laws are more friendly to workers, Amazon employees have been able to successfully unionize. Thanks to those efforts, they were able to push for a permanent 1.6% raise through union negotiations.