In a closely watched decision last month, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Amazon cheated in order to defeat a high-profile unionization campaignThe company broke federal labor laws during its anti-union campaign at a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. earlier this year, so it will soon face a repeat election. The NLRB attacked Amazon’s “blatant disregard” for federal union election rules, writing that management “essentially hijacked the process and gave a strong impression that he was in control of the process. “
In The Hill last week, Kirsten Swearingen, leader of the virulent anti-union “Coalition for a Democratic Workplace”, published a fundamentally misleading article editorial on NLRB decision.
First of all, let’s be absolutely clear on why the NLRB ordered a new election at Amazon. The editorial claims that Amazon has installed a mailbox to “facilitate voting.” In fact, the NLRB has repeatedly told Amazon that it cannot conduct an on-site ballot, after the company insisted on it, then unsuccessfully appealed the NLRB’s decision after it was denied. However, in a breathtaking act of arrogance, Amazon’s senior management ignored these clear instructions and pressured the United States Postal Service (USPS) to set up an on-site mailbox just before election time. . At the NLRB post-election hearing, a senior USPS official said it was the first time in his decades of service that he had installed a “cluster box” for a single commercial customer due to of an upcoming NLRB election. Amazon then covered the mailbox with a marquee plastered with huge slogans associated with its “Vote No” campaign after it was ordered by the USPS not to place any stickers on the mailbox. When asked to explain his reaction to Amazon’s blatant disregard for these clear instructions, the USPS replied: “Surpriseâ. Additionally, the NLRB found that Amazon management also engaged in illegal monitoring of workers’ voting intentions.
These are anything but insignificant fees. Indeed, given the overwhelming evidence of illegal activity, it would have been astonishing that the NLRB did not decide to annul the tainted election. Allowing it to deal with Amazon’s lawless conduct would send the message that the law does not apply to companies if they are powerful enough, wealthy enough, and willing to intimidate their workers. Additionally, the decision to quash the tainted election was made first by the NLRB’s hearings manager, and then by its Atlanta-based regional director, who is not politically appointed – they are career lawyers – or âformer union employees,â as the op-ed mistakenly suggests. Instead, Swearingen resorts to misleading ‘Big Labor’ tropes to describe a small but stubborn union, the Retail Wholesale & Department Store Union, which clashes with one of the richest and most powerful corporations in the world. the planet, Amazon. Bessemer also wasn’t the first time the NLRB found Amazon guilty of illegal anti-union behavior: the e-commerce giant deserves to be at the top of our anti-union pantheon and it shows that the The NLRB’s remedies are far from sufficient to fight its anarchy.
Second, it is important to dispel a blatant lie about the Right to Organize Law (PRO Act), currently pending before the United States Senate. The editorial erroneously states that the PRO law âpotentially eliminates secret ballot electionsâ and allows âcard verification certificationâ of unions (v. Wealthy democracies). To be clear, the PRO Law says nothing – zero – about the certification of card checks; the author effectively invented this phantom provision out of thin air to bolster his extreme anti-union arguments. The PRO law would outlaw compulsory anti-union meetings “captive audience” – forced listening sessions, which, according to their own testimony, Amazon management conducted thousands of times at Bessemer – and impose tougher penalties on companies like Amazon that violate workers’ right to choose a union. Further, the editorial states that âBig Laborâ¦ succeeded in pushing Democrats to include the policies of the PRO law in the budget reconciliation bill. In reality, the bill contains only provisions of the PRO Act: much-needed financial penalties for companies like Amazon that repeatedly violate workers’ rights.
The NLRB was absolutely right to overturn the election of Bessemer, which was fundamentally marred by Amazon’s conduct. But what the Bessemer campaign really demonstrates is that the NLRB is in desperate need of more potent remedies at its disposal. The law as it stands is too toothless to subdue an extremely powerful, incredibly wealthy, and repeatedly illegal corporate tyrant. The Senate should pass the PRO law without delay.
John Logan is professor and director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University.