Federal officials counted the ballots for an Amazon union election at a warehouse in Alabama on Thursday, but the initial results were too close to call.
Workers had cast 875 ballots in favor of joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, with 993 voting against. But 416 more ballots were challenged by either Amazon or the union, and those votes will determine the final outcome.
Either side can challenge the eligibility of a worker to vote. It will likely take the National Labor Relations Board weeks to sort out those ballots and figure them into the final tally.
“It’s a lot of challenged ballots, well beyond the difference between the yes and no votes,” Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU’s president, said in a press conference after the count.
Appelbaum noted recent union wins at Starbucks and REI, saying there was an “important moment going on in our country right now.”
“Workers are tired of being treated like a disposable commodity,” he said. “They are tired of being treated like robots.”
Meanwhile, a separate vote count was underway on Thursday for a union election at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island. The union in that case, the new Amazon Labor Union, held on to a lead after several hours of counting before officials stopped for the day. The initial results won’t be known until Friday at the earliest.
The election in Alabama marked the second time in a year that workers at the Bessemer facility outside Birmingham would decide whether to unionize. The second election came about because Amazon broke the law during the first one, held in early 2021.
The union had challenged the results of that vote based on Amazon’s conduct. Labor board officials later determined that the company had tainted the voting process, ordering the do-over. Appelbaum said the union may file objections to how Amazon acted during the second election as well.
Amazon deals with labor unions in some countries, but its sprawling logistics network in the U.S. remains union-free. The company now employs roughly 1 million workers in the U.S., most of whom work in warehouses where they pick, pack and ship orders to customers.
To unionize a facility through an election, a union must gather signed union cards from at least 30% of the workers to authorize a vote and then win a majority of ballots cast. Unions have not seen much success in recent years trying to organize large facilities like Amazon’s through traditional elections, when often the employer campaigns against the union.
Amazon has shown its determination to keep unions out of its warehouses by hiring anti-union consultants and inundating workers with anti-union messaging. During the run-up to the first election, some of Amazon’s consultants were paid $3,200 apiece per day to hold meetings with workers meant to persuade them to vote against the union.