Amazon holds early lead in a historic union election

Amazon appears likely to be headed to victory over activists hoping to establish the company’s first unionised warehouse in the US.

Votes against the effort held a more than 2 to 1 lead, in an early tally of almost half the ballots on Thursday. The National Labor Relations Board will continue the count on Friday.

The contest is seen as a key test for the e-commerce giant, which has faced global criticism for its treatment of workers during the pandemic. Last month, US President Joe Biden called the vote by workers at the warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama a “vitally important choice”.

Celebrities and national Democratic politicians have traveled to the state to support the union campaign, which even drew some Republican backing. A total of 3,125 ballots were cast in the election, according to the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which was behind the unionization effort.

That was a higher turnout than organizers had anticipated, representing just over half of the nearly 6,000 people employed at the warehouse. Hundreds of the votes were challenged by Amazon and union representatives, but an incomplete count of uncontested ballots conducted by labor officials on Thursday showed that at least 1,100 workers voted against the union effort, compared to less than 500 votes in favor of unionizing.

Union organisers had also tied the fight at the warehouse – where the majority of workers are black – to broader issues of civil rights and racial justice.

-BBC

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