By Bill Rigby
SEATTLE Jan 15 A small group of Amazon.com Inc
technicians at a distribution center in Delaware voted
on Wednesday not to join a union, marking a victory for the U.S.
online retailer which is strongly opposed to any kind of
third-party representation for its employees.
A group of equipment maintenance and repair technicians
voted 21 to 6 not to join the International Association of
Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), in results published
late on Wednesday.
The vote was a symbolic test of Amazon's employee relations
policies, but did not affect the vast majority of the 1,500 or
so packers and shippers who work at the Middletown, Delaware
facility, one of more than 40 distribution centers in the United
It does mean however, that under U.S. National Labor
Relations Board (NLRB) rules, there cannot be another vote on
unionization at the facility for one year.
"Our employees have made it clear that they prefer a direct
connection with Amazon," said Mary Osako, an Amazon spokeswoman,
in an emailed statement.
John Carr, a representative of the IAM, said Amazon had
worked behind the scenes to sway workers.
"The workers at Amazon faced intense pressure from managers
and anti-union consultants hired to suppress this organizing
drive," said Carr, adding that the union will continue to work
with the Amazon technicians with the aim of organizing union
Like its brick-and-mortar rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc
, Seattle-based Amazon discourages any kind of union
activity at its operations. In turn, labor groups are making
efforts to organize in the retail sector.
On Wednesday, the NLRB issued a complaint against Wal-Mart
alleging the world's largest retailer violated labor laws in 14
states by taking action against striking workers. Wal-Mart says
its actions were valid.
Amazon has not so far faced much pressure in the United
States, but late last year more than 1,000 of its workers in
Germany went on strike as part of a long-running pay dispute and
have vowed to continue industrial actions this year. Some 1,000
Amazon employees in Germany also signed a petition opposing
The company has also faced bad publicity after the BBC
broadcast a documentary last year on the rigors of working
inside an Amazon delivery center, which can involve walking up
to 11 miles (18 km) a day at peak times picking items off
Amazon has stressed that workers at its centers are
relatively well paid, safe, and get training on the job.
"The top priority of our fulfillment center network is
safety. It's safer to work in the Amazon fulfillment network
than in a department store," said Amazon's Osako.