The emails, which were between USPS employees, are partially redacted and were obtained by the union backing the election through the Freedom of Information Act. The union has called for an investigation by the National Labor Relations Board into the matter.
The correspondence, which runs from January to early February, indicates Amazon wanted the USPS to move quickly to set up a mailbox ahead of the start of the election and pushed for updates on the matter from the government. In one email from January 14, a Postal Service employee said, “We have not heard anything back on the install of this collection box. Amazon is reaching out again to me today about the status as they wanted to move quickly on this.”
Union elections are typically done in-person with NLRB officials present, but due to the pandemic the NLRB allowed for voting by mail, over Amazon’s strenuous objections. That decision led to a great deal of focus on how ballots would be handled. The ballots, which were mailed to the homes of eligible employees, could be cast in any USPS mailbox.
In a statement to CNN Business last month, Amazon spokesperson Heather Knox said “the USPS recently installed a mailbox onsite for the convenience of our employees.”
“This mailbox is enclosed in a tent making it convenient, safe, and private for our employees to vote on their way to and from work if they choose to, or use it for any of their other mailing needs. Only USPS can collect the outgoing mail from this box or put incoming mail into it,” the statement continued.
About 30 minutes before the vote ceased for the day, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, said in a statement: “Our system is broken, Amazon took full advantage of that, and we will be calling on the labor board to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign.”
“But make no mistake about it; this still represents an important moment for working people and their voices will be heard,” the statement read.
Hours before, Appelbaum specifically called for “an investigation over Amazon’s behavior in corrupting the election” in regard to the mailbox situation. “Even though the NLRB definitively denied Amazon’s request for a drop box on the warehouse property, Amazon felt it was above the law and worked with the postal service anyway to install one. They did this because it provided a clear ability to intimidate workers,” the earlier statement read.
Appelbaum previously objected to the mailbox, telling CNN Business last month that “everything you do at Amazon you know is surveilled, everything is monitored, and you have every reason to believe that if you mail from that box it is going to be monitored, as well.”
In a statement to CNN Business last month concerning the mailbox, David Partenheimer, a Postal Service spokesman, said, “We suggested the unit as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point.” In an email to CNN Business Thursday, Partenheimer reiterated that the box installed “was suggested by the Postal Service as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point.”
In a statement Thursday, Amazon’s Knox said, “We said from the beginning that we wanted all employees to vote and proposed many different options to try and make it easy. The RWDSU fought those at every turn and pushed for a mail-only election, which the NLRB’s own data showed would reduce turnout. This mailbox—which only the USPS had access to—was a simple, secure, and completely optional way to make it easy for employees to vote, no more and no less.”
The NLRB declined to comment on the situation.
Amazon, which has previously fended off unions in the United States, waged an online and offline campaign to combat the drive, including posting signage in bathroom stalls and pulling workers into meetings before the start of the election to convey its anti-union stance.
For Amazon, and its workforce, the stakes of the vote are high. A successful union drive in Bessemer could encourage people in the company’s warehouses around the country to launch similar efforts, potentially changing how Amazon works with many of its 950,000 US-based employees.
Some Amazon workers in Europe are unionized, but this is the largest effort by US-based Amazon workers to unionize thus far. In Delaware, a small union election was held at a warehouse in 2014 but resulted in workers rejecting representation.