Amazon claims in-person vote only way to ensure 'valid, fair' union election

Amazon is reportedly attempting to prohibit employees at an Alabama warehouse from participating in an upcoming unionization vote with mail-in ballots.

What's the background?

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, a significant portion of American voters participated in the 2020 election by casting mail-in ballots. In fact, data from the Pew Research Center found that nearly half of American voters — 46% — cast an absentee or mail-in ballot.

Democrats heavily pushed mail-in voting, likely because mail-in ballots would allow more voters to participate in the election process. Republicans, however, generally opposed mail-in voting, arguing that conducting a large portion of the election by mail potentially increased the potential that voter fraud could mar election integrity.

What's happening with Amazon?

Amazon filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board on Thursday over the agency's decision permitting the nearly 6,000 employees who work inside Amazon's Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse to participate in the unionization election through mail-in ballots.

Instead, Amazon wants the election to be conducted in-person.

From the Washington Post:

Amazon argued in one of two filings that the agency's pandemic-voting policy is flawed, in part because it fails to define what a covid-19 "outbreak" actually is. That guidance "reflected assumptions developed comparatively earlier in the pandemic — before scientific understanding of the virus and possible precautions had developed to where it is today," Amazon says in the filing.

In fact, Lisa Henderson, the acting regional director of the NLRB's Atlanta office, told Amazon that requiring the unionization vote to be conducted in-person "could disenfranchise voters who have covid-19 or are concerned about contracting the disease," the Post reported.

"A mail ballot election will enfranchise employees who cannot enter the voting location for health reasons or due to positive COVID tests," the NLRB decision stated, CNN reported. "In addition, a mail ballot election will protect the health and safety of voters, Agency personnel, the parties' representatives, and the public during the current health crisis."

What did Amazon say?

Amazon spokesperson Heather Knox told CNN in a statement that Amazon is fighting for an in-person election because it is "the best approach to a valid, fair and successful election is one that is conducted manually, in-person, making it easy for associates to verify and cast their vote in close proximity to their workplace."

The effort by the Bessemer employees to unionize is the first by Amazon employees in seven years.

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