The unionization votes are now in the hands of the National Labor Relations Board and the two factions have completed their challenges to individual ballots in the year-long battle to organize nearly 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Ala.
The next two days are going to determine which of the two sides has the upper hand: Amazon, which aggressively opposed unionization in the Alabama fulfillment center, or the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, which has been trying to convince the plant’s workers to form the retail company’s first unionized employee group.
So what happens now?
On Tuesday at the NLRB office in Birmingham, Ala., the challenged ballots — those that either side protested — were set aside. The number of challenged ballots was estimated at 10% of the overall number of votes cast. (The total number of votes will remain a secret until the final tally on Thursday.)
The challenged votes will only be counted by the NLRB if the election outcome can be changed by counting them. In other words, if there is not enough to flip the election, they will remain sealed.
On Wednesday, the NLRB election workers will separate the validated ballots, the remaining 90%, from their envelopes. The ballots arrived in yellow envelopes containing blue ballot envelopes. The two are placed in separate piles. The blue ballots will be counted on camera in an election broadcast on video, tentatively scheduled for Thursday.
NLRB officials separate the two so that during the broadcast of the tally — the votes are held up to the camera one-by-one — the employee identification from the yellow envelope can’t be seen. This is to protect employees who fear reprisals based on their votes, according to the NLRB.
Amazon, union organizers, and the media will be able to watch the live election.
When final votes are counted, NLRB officials will announce the result, perhaps late Thursday. If the differential is within the number of challenged ballots, a final result will be delayed until the labor board can rule on the challenged ballots. If not, a winner will be declared.
However, both sides will retain opportunities to appeal to the overall election process, a step that could eventually reach federal court and leave the election undetermined for a while.
We’ll have coverage on GeekWire of the results as soon as they are announced.