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Amazon union vote count begins as labor board starts tallying ballots

(Amazon Photo)

The live count of the Amazon unionization vote has begun. More than 3,200 workers participated in the unionization vote, approximately 55% of the eligible voters. The election is being hand-counted and broadcast live through Zoom from the National Labor Relations Board offices in Birmingham, Ala. 

More than 5,800 Amazon workers in Alabama could be affected by the push organize under the Retail Wholesale Department Store Union, an 80-year-old organization led by Stuart Applebaum since 1998. Voting ended a week ago and today’s counting will decide if Bessemer will be the first unionized workforce in Amazon’s 26-year history.

NLRB workers are counting the ballots. We’ll update this post as the votes are counted.

Update at 1:55 p.m. Amazon extends its lead. Now at 400 votes against a union; 183 votes in favor (unofficial). 

Update at 1:45 p.m. 300 votes against a union; 145 votes in favor. 

Update at 1:30 p.m. 200 votes against a union; 101 votes in favor. 

Update at 1:25 p.m.  It is 196 No votes and 100 Yes, still nearly 2-1 against forming a union.

Update at 1 p.m. The No union side has 100 votes to the 39 for Yes. (unofficial)

Update, 12:55 p.m.: At my count — unofficial — the “No” union side is winning handily so far.

Update, 12:50 p.m.: 43 No; 15 Yes.

Update, 12:45 p.m. Nearly 3-to-1 for No so far.

Update, 12:42 p.m. PT: First three votes No. Then two yes.

At stake isn’t just union representation for several thousand Alabama-based employees of the online retail giant, but also the company’s ongoing relationship with hundreds of thousands of its lowest-paid workers across the country.

And in some ways, the vote has also become a proxy for the health of the national labor movement as a whole.

The fight has pulled in Amazon’s top brass including founder Jeff Bezos, numerous U.S. senators, President Joe Biden, and tech industry leaders who say that this fight isn’t simply about the online retail and cloud computing giant but also about the nature of modern work itself. 

Today, the Washington Post reported that Amazon managers in the days leading up to the election pushed the U.S. Postal Service to install a mailbox at the Bessemer warehouse — a move the union sees as a violation of labor laws.

According to the Post: “The union has complained about the mailbox, which the Postal Service installed just prior to the start of mail-in balloting for the union election in early February. It’s argued that the mailbox could lead workers to think that Amazon has some role in collecting and counting ballots, which could influence their votes.”

The New York Times noted that generally union elections are held in person but the pandemic changed all of that. Workers received their ballots in February and were due at the Birmingham NLRB office by March 30. During the past several days, the board has attempted to determine ballots are eligible and which are not.

The ballot validation process is ongoing. Both sides are believed to be likely to appeal any result.

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