Amazon lawyers want a do-over, claim historic NYC union vote was ‘tainted’ by NLRB

As billionaire Jeff Bezos celebrates Amazon’s designation as LinkedIn’s top company on Twitter, Amazon attorneys are claiming the historic union victory at one of its New York City warehouses was the “tainted” result of actions by union organizers and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) — and now Amazon wants a do-over on the election.

In a court document filed Friday and obtained by the Associated Press, lawyers for the e-commerce giant presented a list of 25 objections to the union vote, including allegations that organizers within the newly-established Amazon Labor Union (ALU), led by fired Amazon worker Chris Smalls, intimidated workers into voting for the union.

Eric Milner, an attorney representing the ALU, called the claim “patently absurd.”

After Amazon first made its planned objections public on Thursday, Miller said in a statement, “The employees have spoken.”

“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 the workers’ behalf, Miller said.

Approximately 55% of the Staten Island warehouse workers cast 2,654 votes in favor of unionizing last Friday, but according to the Amazon filing, ALU organizers “intentionally created hostile confrontations in front of eligible voters,” when they interrupted mandatory company meetings held in the hope of urging employees to reject the union drive.

 

“In a filing released earlier this month, the company disclosed it spent about $4.2 million last year on labor consultants,” AP reports.

Also among the Amazon objections is the ALU organizers’ distribution of marijuana to the workers. The labor board “cannot condone such a practice as a legitimate method of obtaining support for a labor organization,” the filing reads.

As recreational marijuana use is now legal in New York, Milner argued that distributing weed “is no different than distributing free t-shirts and it certainly did not act to interfere with the election,” adding that Amazon is grasping at straws.

Amazon also alleges that ALU organizers improperly polled the workers.

Initially, Amazon based its decision to challenge the vote based on a lawsuit filed by the NLRB in March that would force Amazon to reinstate Gerald Bryson, a union drive participant who was fired by the company, claiming the NLRB’s lawsuit created an impression that the board supported the union and “failed to protect the integrity and neutrality of its procedures.”

“Based on the evidence we’ve seen so far, as set out in our objections, we believe tha 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,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement issued Friday.

The NLRB did not immediately respond to AP’s request for comment, but its spokesperson, Kayla Blado, had previously pointed out that the agency is authorized by Congress to enforce the National Labor Relations Act.

“All NLRB enforcement actions against Amazon have been consistent with that Congressional mandate,” Blado said.

Other objections to the union vote include claims that the NLRB was understaffed, didn’t have enough equipment, and failed to properly deal with the media presence around the voting area, which, Amazon alleges, led to long lines and “discouraged many employees from voting in subsequent polling sessions.”

Meanwhile, despite the chaos of unions and working conditions strained by COVID-19, Amazon was voted LinkedIn’s top company in 2022, an achievement Jeff Bezos celebrated on Twitter Wednesday.

“We must be better every day, and we know there is even more to do, but super proud of Amazon being ranked the #1 place where people want to work by LinkdIn,” Bezos, who is no longer playing an active role at the company, tweeted.

“Their methodology uses LinkedIn’s unique data set from its 810 million members and evaluates many factors including the ability to advance, skills growth, company stability, external opportunity, company affinity, and gender diversity,” Bezos continued. “Thank you to each and every one of Amazon’s employees for all your hard work and dedication. It is Day 1.”

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Melissa Fine

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