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3 years Ago
A mailbox outside of Amazon’s Alabama warehouse could become a central focus in the aftermath of a historic union battle at the site.
On Friday, a vote count revealed Amazon workers at the company’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama voted against forming a union, with 70.8% being “no” votes.
The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued a statement in response to the vote announcing its plans to file an objection and unfair labor practice charge (ULP) against Amazon.
The union highlighted the mailbox when announcing the ULP charge.
“Worst yet, even though the NLRB definitively denied Amazon’s request for a drop box on the warehouse property, Amazon felt it was above the law and worked with the postal service anyway to install one,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the union, said in a statement. “They did this because it provided a clear ability to intimidate workers.”
The day before the vote count the union revealed it had found emails showing Amazon had pushed the US Postal Service to install the mailbox at the warehouse.
The union has argued that the mailbox could be perceived as a way to deter workers from voting in favor of a union. The group has been working to represent nearly 6,000 Amazon workers at the Alabama warehouse.
Over the past seven weeks, Amazon workers voted on whether to join the first union in the US that would represent Amazon employees.
“It’s fairly common for there to be unfair labor practice charges at the end of a contentious election like this,” John Logan, a labor and employment professor at San Francisco State University who specializes in tactics companies use to defeat union drives, previously told Insider. He added that it’s “fairly difficult” to predict how the NLRB will ultimately rule on those charges.
When the mailbox was initially installed in February — just before the voting process began — Amazon reportedly emailed workers telling them to use the mailbox to vote against forming a union.
Amazon has historically acted to prevent unionization at its warehouses. An Insider investigation found Amazon used several anti-union tactics, including posting anti-union signs at its warehouses and holding meetings designed to convince workers to vote against the union.
The union has spoken out against the mailbox in the past. The group said the mailbox could make it seem as if Amazon would be able to see the votes — a factor that would deter employees voting in favor of a union.
The mailbox was installed after the National Labor Relations Board rejected the company’s request for employees to vote in person at the warehouse. The board opted for mail-in votes instead.
Amazon told Insider the boxes were an effort to allow workers to vote more easily.
“We said from the beginning that we wanted all employees to vote and proposed many different options to try and make it easy,” an Amazon spokesperson told Insider. “The RWDSU fought those at every turn and pushed for a mail-only election, which the NLRB’s own data showed would reduce turnout. This mailbox — which only the USPS had access to — was a simple, secure, and completely optional way to make it easy for employees to vote, no more and no less.”
The USPS also responded to the reports about the emails.
“The box that was installed — a Centralized Box Unit (CBU) with a collection compartment — was suggested by the Postal Service as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point,” a USPS spokesperson told Insider.
“It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true,” Amazon said in a statement following the finalized vote. “Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us. And Amazon didn’t win—our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union.”