Tech

Amazon seeks to overturn union win, says vote was tainted

Key Points
  • Amazon is seeking to overturn the historic union victory at one of its New York City warehouses, arguing in a legal filing Friday that union organizers and the National Labor Relations Board acted in a way that tainted the results.
  • Warehouse workers in Staten Island cast 2,654 votes — or about 55% — in favor of a union, giving the fledgling group enough support to pull off a victory last Friday.
  • In one objection, Amazon said organizers "intentionally created hostile confrontations in front of eligible voters," by interrupting the mandatory meetings it held to persuade its employees to reject the union drive.

In this article

Christian Smalls, founder of the Amazon Labor Union, holds up the official tally of ballots outside the National Labor Relations Board offices in Brooklyn on April 1, 2022.
Stephanie Keith | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon is seeking to overturn the historic union victory at one of its New York City warehouses, arguing in a legal filing Friday that union organizers and the National Labor Relations Board acted in a way that tainted the results. It now wants to redo the election.

The e-commerce giant listed 25 objections in the filing obtained by The Associated Press, accusing organizers with the nascent Amazon Labor Union of intimidating workers to vote for the union, a claim an attorney representing the group has called "patently absurd."

"The employees have spoken," Eric Milner, the attorney, said Thursday in a statement after Amazon's initial planned objections were made public in another legal filing. "Amazon is choosing to ignore that, and instead engage in stalling tactics to avoid the inevitable — coming to the bargaining table and negotiating for a contract" on behalf of the workers, he said.

Warehouse workers in Staten Island cast 2,654 votes — or about 55% — in favor of a union, giving the fledgling group enough support to pull off a victory last Friday.

In one objection, Amazon said organizers "intentionally created hostile confrontations in front of eligible voters," by interrupting the mandatory meetings it held to persuade its employees to reject the union drive. In a filing released last week, the company disclosed it spent about $4.2 million last year on labor consultants.

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In another objection, Amazon targeted organizers' distribution of cannabis to workers, saying the labor board "cannot condone such a practice as a legitimate method of obtaining support for a labor organization." New York legalized the recreational use of marijuana last year for those over 21.

The company had initially signaled it planned to challenge the election results based on a lawsuit the NLRB filed in March in which the board sought to force Amazon to reinstate a fired employee who was involved in the union drive.

The company pointed to the lawsuit in one of its objections filed Friday, saying the regional NLRB office that brought the suit "failed to protect the integrity and neutrality of its procedures," and had created an impression of support for the union by seeking reinstatement for the former employee, Gerald Bryson.

"Based on the evidence we've seen so far, as set out in our objections, we believe that the actions of the NLRB and the ALU improperly suppressed and influenced the vote, and we think the election should be conducted again so that a fair and broadly representative vote can be had," Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said in a statement.

Bryson was fired in the early days of the pandemic after leading a protest calling for the company to do more to protect workers against Covid-19. While off the job during the protest, Bryson got into a dispute with another worker and was later fired for violating Amazon's vulgar-language policy, according to his attorney Frank Kearl.

The NLRB did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Its spokesperson, Kayla Blado, has previously said the independent agency has been authorized by Congress to enforce the National Labor Relations Act.

"All NLRB enforcement actions against Amazon have been consistent with that Congressional mandate," she said.