Amazon plans ‘substantial’ objections to historic union vote at New York City warehouse

Amazon (AMZN), which originally had just one week after the election to file any objections, was granted a two-week extension Thursday on filing the proof to support its objections. In a filing requesting the extension from the National Labor Relations Board regional director, Amazon noted that the election at its Staten Island, New York, facility «was one of the largest in the Board’s recent history» and said that its «objections are anticipated to be substantial, both in the number … and the scope of the conduct.»

Employees at its Staten Island facility, known as JFK8, voted decisively in favor of unionizing with Amazon Labor Union (ALU), a grassroots labor organization started by current and former employees of the facility. The results marked the first time a group of US workers have successfully voted to form a union in the company’s 27-year history.

In its filing, however, Amazon said it will raise objections about behavior of union organizers and the NLRB, the independent federal agency tasked with protecting employees’ right to organize and which oversaw the election. Amazon suggested that organizers of the union drive, in various manners, threatened employees to vote in favor of the effort. The ALU did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon also claimed in the filing that «voter turnout was significantly depressed,» which it said was a result of how the NLRB conducted the election and caused «inordinately long waits.» Out of approximately 8,325 eligible voters, 4,785 votes were counted. There were 2,654 votes in favor of unionizing and 2,131 votes against it. Another 67 ballots were challenged and 17 were voided.

The company first indicated last week that it was exploring filing objections over what it claimed was «inappropriate and undue influence» on the part of the NLRB. In a statement to CNN Business last week, a spokesperson for the NLRB dismissed the notion that it acted unfairly.Amazon said last week that it was «disappointed» with the Staten Island results. While Amazon has repeatedly said in statements that its «employees have always had the choice of whether or not to join a union,» it also spent $4.3 million last year on anti-union consultants and used a combination of texting, on-site signage and mandatory meetings to convince workers to vote against unionizing.

Last Thursday, the same day the public vote count began for the Staten Island election, the ballots of a do-over union election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, were also tallied, but the outcome remains too close to call. There are 416 ballots being challenged, which is enough to sway the result. The NLRB is expected to hold a hearing to review the contested ballots in the coming weeks.

In contrast to the bootstrapped Staten Island effort, the Bessemer drive was done in tandem with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, an 85-year-old labor union. The original election, held a year ago, favored Amazon, but the results were scrapped after an NLRB regional director determined that Amazon illegally interfered, a decision the company called «disappointing.»

The RWDSU this week filed objections to the do-over election, arguing that Amazon again interfered with its employees right to vote freely in a fair election and it called for the NLRB regional director to hold a hearing to determine if the results should be set aside once more. The RWSDU alleged there were instances of termination and retaliation of union supporters, intimidation and surveillance of employees engaged in organizing activities, and discrepancies with the list of eligible voters provided to the union. The RWSDU also alleged Amazon applied new rules to prohibit organizing, removed pro-union literature, and threatened to close the facility if the union succeeded.

«We’ve said from the beginning that we want our employees’ voices to be heard, and we hope the NLRB counts every valid vote,» Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said in a statement about the Bessemer vote.

The RWDSU previously filed several unfair labor practice complaints over Amazon’s conduct at the facility. One complaint took issue with required group meetings where Amazon representatives conveyed its anti-union stance to workers, which the union argued violated workers’ right to refrain from organizing-related activities.

While these required meetings are a common tactic similarly used by a number of other employers and one that is legally permitted, the union asked the NLRB to review the law. On Thursday, NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo issued a memo calling for the agency to reconsider its stance on mandatory meetings of this nature.

Amazon, which previously told CNN Business the RWDSU’s complaint has no merit, declined to comment on Abruzzo’s memo.

The battle over treatment of workers inside Amazon’s facilities is widely viewed as central to the future of work in the United States. The company is the nation’s second largest private employer and is known for its heavy emphasis on automation and tracking of productivity. Its high turnover rates, on-the-job injuries and increased worker activism, have also drawn significant attention to its workplace conditions in recent years. In late May, Amazon shareholders are expected to have the opportunity to vote on a resolution for an independent audit of the company’s warehouse working conditions, according to a Reuters report on Thursday.