Why Is The Amazon Union Vote Count Taking So Long?

1 hour ago
Originally published on April 8, 2021 10:42 am

The results of the 2021 election that everyone has been awaiting with bated breath are taking a while.

Blame it on mail-in votes. Yes, this one, too.

The results of the historic Amazon union vote in Alabama, which ended more than a week ago, are still a few days away. A potential reveal is on the cards for Friday at the earliest. Here's what we know so far.

It's a really large mail-in election.

The National Labor Relations Board has received 3,215 ballots from workers at Amazon's warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. That's according to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is looking to represent this workplace. It's also a remarkable turnout of more than 50%.

The vote-tally process — done by hand — includes several lengthy steps.

On Wednesday evening, NLRB agents completed the first part of the process. It involved opening letters and calling out each voter's name so that Amazon or union representatives could object to that voter's eligibility. For example, the worker may no longer be employed at Amazon or the Bessemer warehouse.

Hundreds of ballots have been challenged, the union says, mostly by Amazon. These ballots are then set aside and may play a huge role if the tally of uncontested votes produces a result that's so close that these set-aside votes could sway the outcome.

For now, the vote-count moves on to the next step. Inside that first letter is a second sealed envelope containing the anonymous ballot. NLRB agents open those second envelopes and make sure to shuffle them properly to prepare the ballots for tallying.

Only then will the hand-counting of yes and no votes begin — possibly as early as Thursday afternoon. This tabulation of anonymous ballots will be streamed online for preregistered members of the media and the general public.

In short: Mail-in ballots take a while to process. The NLRB ruled to hold this election by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why is this union vote so highly watched? Here are some overviews of what's at stake:

Editor's note: Amazon is among NPR's recent financial supporters.

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