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Amazon union vote count starts this week for Alabama warehouse

Amazon union vote count starts this week for Alabama warehouse
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Ballots will start being counted this week in the unionization vote at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., marking a critical step in one of the most significant union elections of the last decade. 

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will start tabulating the ballots cast by more than 5,800 workers from the warehouse on Tuesday, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) said. RWDSU is looking to represent the Amazon workers. 

The final vote tally may take a week or more to be tabulated, and any party is allowed to file objections within five days of the vote count. Potential challenges are subject to an NLRB hearing and may delay the issuance of a final tally of ballots.

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Amazon has largely fended off unionization challenges in the U.S., but the battle in Bessemer could lead to the first Amazon union in the U.S.

The challenge at the Bessemer facility, which opened last March, has garnered a spotlight in Washington since ballots went out in early February. 

President BidenJoe Biden28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Franklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Schools face new pressures to reopen for in-person learning MORE released a video supporting the worker push, although he did not explicitly mention Amazon. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMusk's SpaceX has a competitive advantage over Bezos' Blue Origin New York, New Jersey, California face long odds in scrapping SALT  Warren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas MORE (I-Vt.) invited Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosMusk's SpaceX has a competitive advantage over Bezos' Blue Origin Infrastructure deal imperiled by differences on financing Philanthropists and billionaires must walk the talk on climate change MORE to a hearing earlier this month on wealth inequality and slammed the billionaire executive after he declined to attend. 

“As the wealthiest person on earth, I’d love to hear his reasoning as to why he is vigorously opposing a union organizing effort at Amazon which would improve wages and benefits for struggling workers,” Sanders said at the time. 

Republican Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe imminent crises facing Joe Biden Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signs daylight savings bill Study: Early unemployment cutoff would cost 16M people 0B MORE (Fla.) also offered support to the Amazon workers last month. Rubio, however, appeared to tie his support to his dislike of Amazon’s decisions on social issues rather than its treatment of workers. 

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After the Bessemer warehouse, known as BHM1, opened last year, it quickly drew criticism from workers who described exhausting work quotas, insufficient wages and a failure to protect them from the coronavirus pandemic.

The criticisms were not unique to the Alabama location. Similar concerns were raised at Amazon facilities across the country, prompting some protests and walkouts throughout 2020.

Amid the unionization push by RWDSU, whose president is Stuart Appelbaum, Amazon has publicly defended its working conditions. Much of the company’s messaging has centered on the $15 wage it has offered workers since 2018, which is above the federal minimum wage.

“RWDSU membership has been declining for the last two decades, but that is not justification for its president Stuart Appelbaum to misrepresent the facts. Our employees know the truth — starting wages of $15 or more, health care from day one, and a safe and inclusive workplace. We encouraged all of our employees to vote and hope they did so," Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said in a statement.

Updated at 11:53 a.m.