The vote - that garnered national attention, with professional athletes, Hollywood stars and even President Biden weighing in on the side of the union - is currently poised to result in workers rejecting a unionisation push by a more than 2-1 margin.

FILE PHOTO: Banners are placed at the Amazon facility as members of a congressional delegation arrive to show their support for workers who will vote on whether to unionize, in Bessemer, Alabama, US, March 5, 2021.
FILE PHOTO: Banners are placed at the Amazon facility as members of a congressional delegation arrive to show their support for workers who will vote on whether to unionize, in Bessemer, Alabama, US, March 5, 2021. (Reuters)

Amazon is heading into the final stretch of a union push in Bessemer, Alabama, with a sizeable lead over labor organisers.

Of the 3,215 ballots received, workers have so far voted 1,100-463 against forming a union at the warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, after several hours of counting on Thursday.

The count will resume Friday morning in Birmingham, Alabama, where agents for the National Labor Relations Board are counting each vote by hand. 

Roughly 500 ballots submitted in Amazon.com Inc’s landmark union election were challenged in a contest that will determine whether an Alabama warehouse becomes the online retailer’s first organised workplace in the United States, people familiar with the matter said.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is organizing the Amazon workers in Bessemer, said that 3,215 votes were sent in, about 55 percent of the nearly 6,000 workers who were eligible to vote. 

The election is currently poised to result in workers rejecting a unionisation push by a more than 2-1 margin, potentially dealing a blow to organised labor.

Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the retail union, struck a grim tone in a statement Thursday night as the initial results rolled in, signaling that the union will put up a legal fight if the vote doesn’t go its way.

“Our system is broken, Amazon took full advantage of that, and we will be calling on the labor board to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign,” he said, without specifying any allegations. “But make no mistake about it; this still represents an important moment for working people and their voices will be heard.”

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

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A heated battle

Both sides had launched a spirited campaign to win over workers. Amazon hung anti-union signs throughout the warehouse, including inside bathroom stalls. It held mandatory meetings to convince workers why the union was a bad idea and also argued that it already offered more than twice the minimum wage in Alabama plus benefits without workers having to pay union dues.

Meanwhile, union organizers stood outside the warehouse gates trying to talk to people driving in and out of work.

It also had volunteers call all of the nearly 6,000 workers, promising a union will lead to better working conditions, better pay and more respect.

The challenged ballots could take on significance if the union meaningfully closes the gap when additional votes are counted. The US National Labor Relations Board would adjudicate the disputed ballots if necessary to determining the outcome.

Representatives for Amazon and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) challenged the ballots during closed-door election proceedings that lasted more than a week before US officials began publicly counting votes. They were able to question ballots on suspicion of tampering, a voter's eligibility and other issues.

It is not clear how many votes each side challenged. The union on Wednesday said hundreds of ballots were contested, mostly by Amazon. The company has not commented on that claim.

Unionizing Amazon, the second-largest private employer in America, has been a goal for the US labor movement, which is aiming to reverse long-running declines in membership. Union membership fell to 11 percent of the eligible workforce in 2020 from 20 percent in 1983, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has said.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies