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NEW REPORT: Amazon’s Most Egregious Illegal Action To Bust The Union Organizing Effort

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Bessemer, AL – More Perfect Union today released an important new video report that details what is likely to be Amazon’s most egregious illegal action to fight the union.

Because of the importance of this report, we are releasing the memo below to further explain the specific concerns about Amazon’s actions. 

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MEMO TO INTERESTED PARTIES

Today, More Perfect Union released an important new video report about the ongoing unionization fight at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. Our report highlights what is likely to be Amazon’s most egregious illegal action in its multi-pronged efforts to defeat the union.

Today marks one week until the conclusion of the ongoing mail-ballot election. To briefly recap, we sent reporters Kim Kelly and Teresa Krug to cover the election from the ground in early February, making More Perfect Union the first national media organization to produce images and videos of the workers’ stories. Our reporting revealed that Amazon had compelled Jefferson County officials to change traffic light patterns outside the warehouse in an effort to prevent union organizers from talking to stopped cars. (The county at first denied our report, but then later acknowledged we were correct.) More Perfect Union also first highlighted that Amazon had been running anti-union ads on its gaming platform Twitch, targeted at workers in the local community. After we disclosed it, Twitch took down the ads and acknowledged they never should have been allowed to run.

Amazon has hired high-priced outside consultants to help it defeat the workers’ movement. As we have previously noted, those tactics include posting anti-union messages in bathroom stalls, bombarding workers with anti-union text messages, and forcing workers to sit in anti-union propaganda meetings.

  1. THE LEGALITY OF THE MAILBOX

While Amazon has engaged in many efforts to defeat the union, the most egregious action thus far has involved the installation of a dropbox on the Bessemer campus which directly flouts a directive from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

On January 15, 2021, in announcing the NLRB’s decision to make this a mail-ballot election, Acting Regional Director for Region 10, 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, writing:

The use of equipment clearly belonging to the Employer [Amazon], such as pass-through boxes or vending machines, likewise implies a problematic amount of Employer involvement in election proceedings. [p. 9, “Decision and Direction of Election,” 1/15/01]

The union election commenced on February 8th. Directly contravening the NLRB’s decision, Amazon immediately installed a mailbox on the Bessemer campus very late on the 2nd night of voting. In our video report today, we reveal the specific message that Amazon sent to workers:

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 installation of that mailbox facility, which remains to this day, may be Amazon’s most pronounced illegal action in its efforts to oppose the union.

  1. KEY UNRESOLVED QUESTIONS

More Perfect Union reached out to the United States Postal Service (USPS) to seek comment about the installation. The fundamental question is: how did this box get approved to be on premises, despite the direct ruling of the NLRB?

The USPS issued this statement in a response to our inquiry:

Regarding the box, it’s a Centralized Box Unit (CBU) with a collection compartment that the Postal Service installed. We suggested the unit as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point.

The USPS’s carefully worded statement provokes many questions: Did the Postal Service merely install a “collection compartment” within a box unit that Amazon itself installed? Did the Postal Service suggest the box unit as a solution because Amazon instigated a demand that they approve such a collection box? 

Because Amazon had specifically requested such a dropbox from the NLRB, the legitimate implication is that Amazon may have compelled USPS to approve this box. The Retail Workers Union (RWDSU), which is organizing the workers, says it has filed a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) to uncover more details about the installation of the mailbox, but has yet to receive a reply. Josh Brewer, Director of Organizing for the RWDSU in Alabama, tells More Perfect Union: “Everything we’re reading is showing that the Postal Service doesn’t install these boxes.”

USPS has acknowledged that Amazon accounted for nearly $4 billion in USPS revenue last year. Does that financial relationship account for USPS’s willingness to post a mailbox at this facility?

Darryl Craig, a worker at the Bessemer warehouse, tells More Perfect Union that he contacted the NLRB to ask about the presence of the mailbox via email and phone. Craig says the NLRB representative told him that Amazon did not have permission to install it.

Workers at the Bessemer facility tell More Perfect Union that the presence of the dropbox concerns them. They fear that their employer is monitoring their ballots, using the box to identify who has and who has not voted, and potentially coercing employees to side with the Employer.

Among the outstanding questions are: Who owns the mailbox? Who has the keys to the mailbox? Has there been a collection of the box already? How will the collection process work in order to maintain confidence in the vote? How and why is the box being surveilled?

As RWDSU’s Brewer tells More Perfect Union, “Common sense will tell you that Amazon shouldn’t have access to the voting box where ballots are being held.” Depending on the outcome of this union election, Amazon may face a serious legal challenge over this action.

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