REUTERS: Amazon.com Inc's first U.S. union election since 2014 is scheduled to begin with the mailing of ballots in early February and a vote count starting March 30, a U.S. labor board official said in a filing on Friday.
The announcement brings employees at Amazon's fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, a step closer to deciding whether to join part of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). A "yes" vote would mark the first-ever for a U.S. Amazon facility.
As of Jan. 7, Amazon employed almost 6,200 hourly workers at the warehouse, according to the filing. To win, the union needs a simple majority of those who submit ballots.
While Amazon had preferred in-person voting, the labor board sided with the union on a mail-in procedure "because this is the safest and most appropriate method of conducting an election in view of the extraordinary circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic," the filing said.
America's second-largest private employer after Walmart Inc, Amazon has long avoided unionization, and it has trained managers to spot organizing activity. A website, doitwithoutdues.com https://www.doitwithoutdues.com, warns the Bessemer employees, "why pay almost US$500 in dues? We’ve got you covered* with high wages, health care, vision, and dental benefits."
Amazon did not immediately answer a request for comment on the website, which the Washington Post earlier reported, or on the filing. The RWDSU declined to comment.
The world's largest online retailer has faced criticism over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting some workers to protest outside warehouses and demand their closure. Labor organizing has begun in different parts of the company.
Amazon, reporting more than 19,000 COVID-19 cases as of September, has said it increased cleaning, rolled out virus tests and temperature checks, and added other measures to protect associates.
Ballots will be mailed on Feb. 8, the board filing said.
(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)