Hundreds of Alabama's Amazon Union Votes Contested as Ballot Counting Begins

Votes were contested as the National Labor Relations Board began the counting process in a unionization effort at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union representing Bessemer workers said about 55 percent of the nearly 6,000 workers who were eligible cast a vote. But the union said that Amazon challenged "hundreds" of the votes, mainly on the basis of the voter's work status or eligibility to vote, the Associated Press reported.

The margin of victory must be greater than the number of contested votes in order to determine a winner, or the vote will be escalated to a hearing on whether or not to open and count the questioned votes.

For more reporting from Newsweek's Scott McDonald, see below.

President Joe Biden spoke to workers in America last month who would soon vote on whether to join a union. Though the message was for all of the nation, it was really meant for a faction of Amazon workers in Alabama.

"I have long said America wasn't built by Wall Street, it was built by the middle class. And unions built the middle class," the president said. "Unions put power in the hands of the workers. They level the playing field. They give you a stronger voice for your health, your safety, higher wages, protections from racial discrimination and sexual harassment."

Workers in Alabama – and all across America – are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace. It’s a vitally important choice – one that should be made without intimidation or threats by employers.

Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union.

— President Biden (@POTUS) March 1, 2021

Biden said workers should not feel threatened on whether they should join a union, nor which ones they should choose. He cited the National Labor Relations Act, saying, "we should encourage unions."

"Today, and over the next few days and weeks, workers in Alabama and all across America are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace. This is vitally important—a vitally important choice as America grapples with the deadly pandemic, the economic crisis and the reckoning on race—what it reveals the deep disparities that still exist in our country."

Biden added that there should be "no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda. No supervisor should confront employees about their union preferences."

Amazon union
Votes were contested as the National Labor Relations Board began counting votes for the unionization of Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama. In the photo, a union supporter stands before sunrise outside the, Inc. BHM1 fulfillment center on March 29, 2021, in Bessemer, Alabama. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

If the union wins, it would be the first in Amazon's 26-year history. But the vote also has wide-reaching implications beyond Amazon, which is now the second-largest private employer in the U.S. after retailer Walmart.

Labor organizers hope a win in Bessemer will inspire thousands of workers nationwide—and not just at Amazon—to consider unionizing. For Amazon, which has more than 950,000 workers in the U.S., it would mean a blow to its profits and could alter its business operations.

The labor board has already reviewed each vote, reading names and signatures on the envelopes with representatives from Amazon and the retail union, both of which had a chance to contest those votes. Contested votes were put to the side and not opened.

The next step is to open the uncontested votes from their envelopes and start counting "yes" or "no" votes.

Even if there's a clear winner, the battle may be far from over. If workers vote against forming a union, the retail union could file objections accusing Amazon of tainting the election in some way, which could lead to to a redo of the election if the labor board agrees. Amazon could file its own objections if the workers vote to form a union.