An Amazon Fulfillment Center in Spokane, Washington (GeekWire Photo)
The union votes are now in the hands of the National Labor Relations Board, and the two factions have met their single ballot challenges in the year-long struggle to organize nearly 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Ala.
Over the next two days, a decision will be made as to which of the two sides will have the upper hand: Amazon, which has been aggressively opposed to union formation at the fulfillment center in Alabama, or the retail and department store union, which has tried to get workers at the plant to be formed persuade the retail company’s first unionized group of workers.
So what happens now
On Tuesday, at the NLRB’s Birmingham, Alabama office, the contested ballots – the ones both sides protested – were put aside. The number of contested ballots was estimated at 10% of the total number of votes cast. (The total number of votes remains a secret until the final settlement on Thursday.)
The contested votes are only counted by the NLRB if the election result can be changed by counting. In other words, if there isn’t enough to turn the choice around, they stay sealed.
On Wednesday, the NLRB election workers will separate the validated ballot papers, the remaining 90%, from their envelopes. The ballot papers arrived in yellow envelopes with blue voting envelopes. The two are placed in separate piles. The blue ballot papers will be counted in front of the camera in an election broadcast on video, which is expected to take place on Thursday.
NLRB officials separate the two so that during the broadcast of the count – the votes are held individually in front of the camera – the employee identification from the yellow envelope is not visible. According to the NLRB, this is intended to protect employees who fear reprisals based on their votes.
Amazon, union organizers and the media can watch the live voting.
With the final votes counted, NLRB officials may announce the result late Thursday. If the difference is within the number of contested ballots, a final result will be delayed until the labor authority can decide on the contested ballots. If not, a winner will be announced.
However, both sides will still have the opportunity to appeal against the entire electoral process. That move could eventually reach federal court, leaving the choice indefinite for a while.
We’ll be reporting on the results via GeekWire as soon as they’re announced.