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The Battle at Bessemer: Round 2 Goes to the Union
August 05, 2021
On August 2, 2021, the high profile union campaign at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama took another interesting turn, as a hearing officer with the NLRB recommended that the Board throw out the earlier union election that Amazon won. As grounds for recommending a new vote, the hearing officer sustained the Union's objections related to improper locations for official polling stations, the existence and location of security cameras and collection boxes, and Amazon’s improper electioneering and polling of employees.
Currently tied, the "Battle at Bessemer" does not end here. The hearing officer’s report is headed to the NLRB Regional Director’s desk for a final decision to either dismiss the Union's objections or direct a second vote. Both Amazon and the Union will have an opportunity to file "exceptions" prior to that decision. From there, the next step is an appeal to the NLRB Board. This campaign and vote was one of the most high-profile in recent memory, and it remains the closest anyone has come to unionizing an Amazon facility in the United States. With so much at stake, we fully expect the Regional Director's decision will not be the final word on this issue.
Although this issue is far from resolved, there is already much for employers to learn from Amazon's campaign and vote experience and the NLRB hearing officer's report. Some lessons seem obvious, like how this campaign embraced social media and internet-based initiatives in a new and effective way. Other lessons are more subtle, such as how the location of a ballot collection box may be perceived as coercive. Overarching it all, however, is the lesson that no employer, regardless of reputation or size, is immune to a viable union campaign.
Labor & Employment Law Chelsea E. Thompson