Amazon’s Never-Ending Election

Late last year, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Amazon illegally interfered with unionization efforts at its fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama. Despite losing the vote overwhelmingly and failing to provide any substantive evidence that the tech giant’s actions had altered the end result, the NLRB called a new election, and labor organizers will get another opportunity to unionize a workforce that has become a point of obsession for unions and big tech skeptics.

Ballots will be sent to all eligible employees shortly, with the election beginning on February 4th.

Not only does the federally mandated second vote show utter contempt for those workers who rejected unionization, unnecessary efforts to insert unions into workplaces risk harming the very workers they claim to protect.

Workers in Bessemer must once again reject unionization efforts to show unions that they cannot ask for a do-over if they do not get the results they want and unions cannot prove malfeasance.

Back in February 2020, workers at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, overwhelmingly rejected unionization by a margin of 2-1. Despite the loss, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) contested the results with the NRLB, alleging that “Amazon illegally…compromised the election’s integrity via a ballot collection box it secured outside the warehouse.”

Specifically, the union alleged Amazon erected a privacy tent that was “monitored with video.” Despite finding no evidence that the postbox or privacy tent altered the result, the NLRB ordered a new election.

Most interestingly, the RWDSU has already sought to sow doubt about the do-over they requested. In a recent statement, the union stated they are “deeply concerned that the decision” to hold a new election “fails to adequately prevent Amazon from continuing its objectionable behavior in a new election.”

While unions, like the RWDSU, claim they represent workers, the reality is that these organizations have become relics of an industrial past that has little relevance in the twenty-first century. In 1954, labor unions could claim to represent 34.8 percent of U.S. wage and salaried workers. By 2020, that number had fallen to just 10.8 percent, or 14.3 million workers, in 2020. With significantly fewer members, unions are less able to affect their desired change and therefore present a significantly lower value proposition for workers.

Academic studies have also shown that the presence of labor unions depresses workers’ wages rather than increases them. For example, studies by the American Action Forum (AAF) revealed that “for every one-percentage-point increase in the state union membership rate, the average weekly earnings growth rate for all workers in the state declines by 0.22 percentage points.” The decline in wages ultimately means that workers have less disposable income than their non-unionized counterparts to spend on consumer goods or save for the future. The decline in salary also disproportionately harms lower-income workers who are more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck.

Unions also further erode the earning power of their members by charging annual dues that average $400 each year. While this may not seem a lot, to low-income Americans, these fees could be the difference between being able to pay a medical bill, afford a car repair, or save.

Studies have also shown that unions depress job creation. For example, AAF found that “a one-percentage-point increase in the union membership rate is associated with a 0.11 percentage point decrease in the job growth rate.” While the decline in jobs may be slight, the net result is fewer jobs for American workers and fewer opportunities for those who have jobs to find better ones. 

While the RWDSU will get its do-over election, the fact remains that workers resoundingly rejected the original offer, and no amount of complaining can change that fact. Rather than continually casting doubts on a lost election, the union should recognize it simply was not wanted, and workers understood the inherent problems associated with collective bargaining. If unions wanted to stand for workers’ rights, they would take the hint and move on. But, for the sake of workers, they should.

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