A National Labor Relations Board official is recommending that the results of the milestone union election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama held earlier this year be scrapped and that a new election be held due to illegal misconduct on the part of the e-commerce giant.
The recommendation from an NLRB hearing officer was conveyed in a press release by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which was behind the union drive that Amazon soundly defeated in April.
According to a copy of the recommendation report viewed by CNN Business Tuesday morning, the hearing officer said the evidence demonstrates Amazon “interfered with the laboratory conditions necessary to conduct a fair election.” The NLRB declined to comment.
The election, which took place by mail over a nearly two-month period due to the pandemic, received national attention, with celebrities, politicians – including President Joe Biden – and employees at other Amazon facilities lending public support to workers driving the unionization effort.
RWDSU filed formal objections with the NLRB after the vote was tallied in April, alleging Amazon’s conduct in the lead up to and during the election prevented “a free and uncoerced exercise of choice by the employees.” It called for the board to “set the election aside.”
In its release, the RWDSU said the officer presiding over the case determined Amazon (AMZN) violated labor law and will recommend that the results be set aside and a second election be held.
In earlier guidance from the NLRB on the process, Amazon and the union will have a chance to file exceptions. Then the NLRB’s regional director will issue a decision on the matter.
“Throughout the NLRB hearing, we heard compelling evidence how Amazon tried to illegally interfere with and intimidate workers as they sought to exercise their right to form a union. We support the hearing officer’s recommendation that the NLRB set aside the election results and direct a new election,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, in a statement Monday.
In response to Monday’s news, an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement: “Our employees had a chance to be heard during a noisy time when all types of voices were weighing into the national debate, and at the end of the day, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of a direct connection with their managers and the company. Their voice should be heard above all else, and we plan to appeal to ensure that happens.”
Several of the union’s objections centered on the mailbox that Amazon installed earlier this year in the parking lot and urged employees to use to mail their ballots. While union elections are typically done in-person with NLRB officials present, due to the pandemic the NLRB allowed for voting by mail, over Amazon’s strenuous objections. The ballots, which were mailed to the homes of eligible employees, could be cast at any USPS mailbox. The union had cried foul over Amazon’s new mailbox ahead of the results.
According to the recommendation report, the officer said Amazon’s “unilateral decision to create, for all intents and purposes, an onsite collection box for NLRB ballots destroyed the laboratory conditions and justifies a second election.”
Amazon, which has previously fended off unions in the United States, waged an online and offline campaign to combat the drive, including posting signage in bathroom stalls and requiring workers to attend group meetings, known as “captive audience meetings,” before the start of the election to convey its anti-union stance.
In the final vote tally, 1,798 workers at the warehouse voted against unionization while 738 voted to unionize.
In a blog post following the election results, Amazon said, “It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true. 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.”