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December 16, 2020 5:45 PM, EST

Amazon Alabama Workers Get Chance for First-in-US Union

An Amazon Prime warehouse worker collects a package. (Thorsten Wagner/Bloomberg News) A worker collects an Amazon Prime customer order package from a conveyor at an Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center. (Thorsten Wagner/Bloomberg News)

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Amazon.com Inc. workers at an Alabama warehouse were given the go-ahead by federal regulators to vote on whether to form what would be the first union at a U.S. facility of the e-commerce giant.

An organizing drive became public in November when representatives of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union filed paperwork for an election to represent 1,500 frontline workers at the warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. None of Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of employees in warehouses across the U.S. is represented by labor unions.

Amazon objected to the vote, saying in documents filed with the National Labor Relations Board that more than 5,700 employees would be covered by such a bargaining unit. That meant the union had likely gathered fewer signatures than it needed to mandate an election, lawyers for the e-commerce giant said.

Under NLRB rules, 30% of workers must sign union authorization cards or petitions before the regulator steps in to oversee an election in which employees decide whether to form a union.

“We’re administratively satisfied they met the 30% threshold,” said Terry Combs, assistant to the regional director for the NLRB’s Atlanta region.

The Washington Post reported the news earlier. Amazon didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Some Amazon workers in Europe belong to unions, but the world’s largest online retailer has managed to avoid organized labor in the U.S., even as it has grown to become the second-largest employer behind Walmart Inc. A small group of Amazon employees in a Delaware warehouse voted against joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in 2014.

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