Amazon is likely to face a unionization vote within the United States, multiple news outlets reported on Friday. According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), at least 6,000 Amazon employees at an Alabama warehouse could become the face of the company's first union. The news comes several weeks after hundreds of Google employees announced their own union.
If it goes forward, this labor organization effort will lead to one of the most powerful and charged union battles in the world of tech. Ballots are expected to be mailed to Alabama warehouse workers on February 8 while ballots have to be received by March 29. For the unionization to be successful, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) will have to win a majority of votes.
If you're an Amazon employee who did not receive the ballot, the NLRB advises that you should call the Region 10 Office at 404-331-2896 or contact their national toll-free line at 1-844-762-NLRB (1-844-762-6572).
Background — In November, the RWDSU filed a petition before the NLRB for an Amazon union vote. Among its chief demands are increased pay and improved health safety for Amazon workers during the pandemic. Amazon has pushed for in-person voting for the entire effort, which critics argue is unfair and dangerous for employees who risk getting COVID-19 in hard-struck areas. As both sides figure out the logistics, proponents of mail-in balloting argue that this approach will protect overworked and underpaid employees from contracting the virus during a public health crisis.
On Friday, the NLRB hearing officer declared that these workers have about seven weeks to cast their votes whether in favor or against the potential union. To defend itself against unionization, the Washington Post reports that Amazon has retained Morgan Lewis and Bockius, a notorious anti-union firm, to do its legal bidding. It's even put up an anti-union website to discourage workers from voting yes.
For years now, Amazon has aggressively pushed against unions, reportedly spying on employees involved in organizing. Its labor record is riddled with instances of resistance and hostility against union-sympathetic employees. But if Amazon workers are successful in creating their own union, they will undoubtedly inspire employees of other enterprises, big and small, to take a stand for labor rights. It could very well change the face of the tech workforce — for the better.