January 17, 2014, 11:50 AM

Amazon warehouse workers in Delaware vote against forming a union

Maintenance technicians at the retailer’s shipping facility in Middleton, Del., voted 21-6 against joining a union Wednesday. Organizers had hoped unionizing would allow them to negotiate their contract terms and establish a safety committee, among other goals.

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A group of maintenance technicians in Amazon.com Inc.’s fulfillment center in Middleton, Del., voted 21-6 this week against joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW). As a result, the world’s largest e-retailer continues to have no unionized workers in the United States.

The Delaware workers held the vote in the hopes that unionizing would allow them to negotiate seniority, promotion and vacation guidelines, as well as establish a safety committee, the IAMAW says. They will have to wait at least one year before voting on the matter again, according to rules from the National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the election.

“With today’s vote against third-party representation, our employees have made it clear that they want a direct connection with Amazon,” a spokeswoman for the retailer says. “Amazon’s culture and business model are based on rapid innovation, flexibility and open lines of direct communication between managers and associates.”

The retailer responded similarly in recent months to requests for wage and safety negotiations among its German warehouse workers, many of whom are members of union or trade groups. In December, a delegation of those workers travelled to Amazon’s global headquarters in Seattle to protest. At that time, Amazon responded by saying, “We feel it is best to work directly with our employees, not through an intermediary.”

An IAMAW spokesman says the workers in Delaware had sought help in organizing, but then came under pressure from Amazon. “The workers at Amazon faced intense pressure from managers and anti-union consultants hired to suppress this organizing drive,” he says. “We responded when these workers initially reached out to us and we’ll continue to work with them to pursue the collective bargaining rights they’re entitled to under federal labor law.”

Amazon in a response to the allegations of pressuring workers did not confirm whether or not it had hired anti-union consultants. "We met with this group of equipment maintenance and repair technicians to communicate facts and ensure they had all the information they needed to make an informed choice," a spokeswoman says. "And they decided that they neither want nor need third-party representation. They decided that they want a direct, open-door connection with Amazon."

Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, had global revenues of $61.09 billion in 2012.

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