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Amazon distribution center workers in Alabama to vote on unionization

Amazon distribution center workers in Alabama started turning in mail-in ballots on Monday to decide whether to unionize.

SEATTLE — Workers at an Amazon distribution center in Alabama have started to vote on whether to unionize, and it could have broad impacts.

Mail-in voting began Monday in Bessemer, Alabama. Ballots are due March 29.

Workers, like Darryl Richardson, called the working conditions “unsafe.”

“What they fear is not us,” said Joshua Brewer, a representative with the Mid-South Council. “What they fear are that their 6,000 employees are going to come together and realize they can do a whole lot more together than they can do apart.”

Amazon has pushed back against the movement by urging the National Labor Relations Board for an in-person vote or suggesting to workers in a public relations campaign they may lose money in their paychecks from paying union dues.

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An Amazon spokesperson said the company was “disappointed” there wouldn’t be in-person voting, saying turnout for the National Labor Relations Board’s elections was 20% to 30% lower for mail-in ballots versus in-person voting.

“Amazon proposed a safe on-site election process validated by COVID-19 experts that would have empowered our associates to vote on their way to, during and from their already scheduled shifts,” Amazon spokesperson Owen Torres wrote in an email. “We will continue to insist on measures for a fair election that allows for a majority of our employee voices to be heard.”

Nicole Grant, executive secretary of the King County Labor Council, believes a pro-union vote will have significant impacts across the country for the Seattle-based e-commerce giant.

“If workers in Alabama choose to make Amazon a union workplace, it is going to ripple throughout the country,” said Grant. “And what it's going to mean is that those big bucks that stay at the top of the corporation are going to be in the hands of people in our communities.”