More Perfect Union has obtained emails showing that Amazon privately pressured USPS to install an illegal ballot dropbox during the union election in Bessemer, AL. The newly released emails directly contradict public statements by USPS about the box’s origins.
The emails were obtained through a FOIA request by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which led the union drive in Bessemer. Many of the exchanges have been almost entirely redacted, and any mentions of Amazon officials have been removed. Placing a mailbox directly outside the warehouse was critical to Amazon’s strategy of defeating the union. It allowed Amazon managers to pressure workers to vote in a company-controlled location that was under constant surveillance, so workers were more likely to vote against the union. The emails show that Amazon pushed USPS to install the dropbox, a direct contradiction of earlier claims by USPS that they proposed the idea of installing a mailbox to Amazon. “We suggested the unit as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point,” a USPS spokesperson told More Perfect Union on March 21.Amazon pressured the USPS despite a specific directive from the federal government to not set up such a ballot dropbox at their warehouse.
On January 8th — one month before the union vote started — Amazon began repeatedly calling USPS’ “strategic account manager” and stating that they wanted to install their own box. The USPS team deliberated Amazon’s request and said a “private box may not be utilized.”
On January 15, NLRB Regional Director Lisa Henderson rejected Amazon’s request to host a dropbox for mail-ballot collection. Henderson expressed concern that Amazon was asking the NLRB to “cede an inordinate amount of control over election proceedings.” She specifically denied Amazon’s request for a mailbox.We don’t know what changed, but then USPS decided to install one for them. “Amazon HQ would like to be kept in the loop,” a USPS official informs the entire national and local team.
In a series of heavily redacted emails, it appears that for the next week, Amazon and USPS haggled over the acquisition of a box, what kind of box could be installed, and how quickly it could be done.
Then, on Feb 3rd, a USPS official sent an email stating that it was dedicating time and effort to physically altering a collection box that would meet Amazon’s needs.USPS said it was hollowing out a box that would allow for bulk mail ballot collection.
Amazon demanded USPS install the box by Feb 7, one day before the union vote was to begin. USPS said it was working with Amazon to place that box in a convenient location on the Bessemer campus.
The union election began on February 8th. The box was installed the evening of Feb 9th, late at night, under cover of darkness. As soon as the vote began, Amazon texted employees pressuring them to vote before March 1, even though the election deadline was March 29:“A word from BHM1 leadership: Voting has begun! The US Postal Service has installed a secure mailbox just outside the BHM1 main entrance, making your ballot easy, safe, and convenient. Vote now! BE DONE BY 3/1!”The mailbox was critical for Amazon because it wanted to pressure employees to bring ballots to work that they’d received at home in the mail. By doing this, they could then pressure and monitor employees to submit “no” votes.