SEATTLE — Amazon improperly pressured Alabama warehouse workers to vote against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and should hold a new union election, according to recommendations from a National Labor Relations Board hearing officer.

The NLRB had not released the filing , but the union and Amazon put out statements confirming the recommendation. The NLRB will likely make the hearing officer’s report public Tuesday, after redacting some details it believes should remain private.

The recommendation stems from the fiercely contested election at a warehouse that ended in April with a resounding defeat for the union. Workers rejected unionization by a more than 2-1 margin, a loss for the RWDSU and labor groups broadly. During the nearly two-month mail-in balloting, the union drew support from leaders at the AFL-CIO as well as liberal politicians nationally, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams.

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The recommendation will now move to the NLRB’s regional director in Atlanta, which oversaw the election, to issue a ruling. That decision could take several weeks, the agency has said. If the regional director upholds the recommendations, the earlier election results would be set aside and a new election would be called.

“Throughout the NLRB hearing, we heard compelling evidence how Amazon tried to illegally interfere with and intimidate workers as they sought to exercise their right to form a union,” union president Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement. “We support the hearing officer’s recommendation that the NLRB set aside the election results and direct a new election.”

Amazon countered that the workers “overwhelmingly” opposed unionization, spokesman Ty Rogers said in a statement.

“Their voice should be heard above all else, and we plan to appeal to ensure that happens,” Rogers said.

The NLRB declined to comment on ruling.

Amazon, the nation’s second-largest private employer, behind Walmart, has fiercely opposed efforts by its American warehouse workers to organize. But Amazon’s size as well as its role as the nation’s dominant e-commerce operator have made it a high-profile target for labor organizers. A new election would probably spark more high-profile efforts to sway the warehouse staff.

At the center of claims about the vote is a U.S. Postal Service mailbox that popped up in front of the warehouse just after voting started. The union alleged the mailbox could have led workers to think Amazon had a role in collecting and counting ballots, potentially influencing their votes. In its case, the union cited emails that show Amazon pressing the Postal Service to install a mailbox urgently just as the seven-week mail-in balloting began.

An Amazon executive testified that the company pressed the Postal Service to install the mailbox as a way to make it easy for workers to cast ballots and denied any attempt to influence voting with its location.

Ten days after the votes were counted, the RWDSU filed objections to the agency, alleging that Amazon’s tactics “constitute conduct which prevented a free and uncoerced exercise of choice by the employees.” It argued those actions “constitute grounds to set the election aside.”

That filing led to a nearly three-week hearing in May at the agency’s Atlanta regional office, which oversaw the election. Several workers appeared via video on the union’s behalf, testifying that Amazon’s tactics created an atmosphere of election surveillance. The union argued that perception tainted the election.

Appelbaum called Amazon’s tactic’s “despicable” in his statement Monday, adding that “Amazon cheated, they got caught, and they are being held accountable.”

The unionization defeat in April was lopsided, with 1,798 of the more than 3,000 total votes cast opposing unionization. Only 738 workers voted for the union. The margin of was larger than the 505 challenged ballots that would have been counted if they could have affected the outcome. The labor board voided 76 ballots for a variety of reasons.

That loss was a stinging defeat for labor activists, who have complained for years about worker treatment at Amazon warehouses. Amazon had previously beat back a union drive in 2014, when a small group of equipment maintenance and repair technicians at its warehouse in Middletown, Del., ultimately voted against forming a union, following a drive led by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Despite years of trying, none of Amazon’s warehouse workers in the United States are union members, even though many of their co-workers in Europe, where unions are often seen as part of the cultural fabric of the region, are.


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