Amazon workers in Delaware reject trade union membership

Minority's 'no' vote blocks union question for another year

warehouse interior - wide aisle, big shelves

A small number of Amazon warehouse workers in Delaware have voted against joining a union, which claims that the employees were under pressure from the firm to stay away from third-party representation.

In a vote administered by the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB), the Amazon staff voted 21 to six against joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). The vote was a tentative first step that was only applied to mechanics and technicians at the site and not the 1,500 or more packers and shippers working at the distribution centre.

However, now that the vote has gone against IAM, under NLRB rules, there can't be another vote on unionisation at the facility for a year.

John Carr, an IAM spokesperson, said Amazon had worked hard to ensure that staff didn't go for unionisation, in a statement carried by Delaware Online, Reuters and others.

"The workers at Amazon faced intense pressure from managers and anti-union consultants hired to suppress this organising drive,” he claimed. "We responded when these workers initially reached out to us, and we’ll continue to work with them to pursue the collective bargaining rights they’re entitled to under federal labour law."

Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako said that workers wanted to deal directly with the mega-etailer.

“With today’s vote against third-party representation, our employees have made it clear that they prefer a direct connection with Amazon,” she said in a statement. “Amazon’s culture and business model are based on rapid innovation, flexibility and open lines of direct communication between managers and associates.”

If the vote had gone through, it would have been the first union at any of Amazon's 40 or so distribution centres around the US.

Amazon's warehouses worldwide have faced increasing scrutiny as workers complain of draconian conditions in the facilities. Reports have emerged of staff walking up to 11 miles a day back and forth to get items off shelves for packaging and posting, with employees being allocated set times to retrieve items and having handheld monitoring modules beep at them when they don't meet the clock's demands.

Workers in Germany have been striking on and off for more than a year in a pay dispute over the fact that Amazon is classing its staff as logistics sector employees instead of mail order and retail staff, which changes their wage levels and bargaining positions. ®

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