Amazon.com Inc. employees in Alabama voted not to unionize, according to a Wall Street Journal tally, handing the tech giant a victory in its biggest battle to date against labor-organizing efforts after the contest fueled national debate over working conditions at one of the nation’s largest employers.
With about 80% of ballots counted, about 71% of the Bessemer, Ala., warehouse workers voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, according to the Journal’s vote tally. The National Labor Relations Board has finished counting all votes that weren’t challenged by either side, and the number of votes against a union exceeds 1,608, the total needed to reach a majority of the 3,215 mail-in ballots sent in by workers. The NLRB hasn’t yet declared an official winner. Shares of Amazon rose more than 1% to the highest level since mid-February.
The Bessemer facility employs fewer than 1% of the roughly 950,000 Amazon employees in the U.S., but the vote emerged as a watershed moment for a company that hired at a faster pace than almost any private corporation in history last year.
Supporters contrasted Amazon’s reputation for growth, profit and innovation with the working conditions for rank-and-file employees, some of whom have complained both publicly and to the company about the physical demands of the job. They also compared the wealth of Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos to the experience of hourly warehouse workers.
Some employees in Bessemer said they wanted to unionize to negotiate over issues including their compensation, the pace of their work and the amount of break time they have per shift. One worker in Bessemer said he is expected to pick roughly 300 items per hour and at times doesn’t have enough time to take a bathroom break without potentially getting in trouble. Amazon has said employees can take bathroom breaks when needed.