,FILE PHOTO: Banners are placed at the Amazon facility as members of a congressional delegation arrive to show their support for workers who will vote on whether to unionize, in Bessemer, Alabama, U.S. March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Dustin Chambers?/File Photo
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(Reuters) -An early tally on Thursday of votes in Amazon.com Inc's closely watched union election in Alabama showed workers voting against forming the first union in the United States by more than a 2-1 margin.
Of the 3,215 ballots received, at least 600 votes were against unionizing and more than 250 votes were for the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse to form a union. The vote count is expected to take hours and could extend into Friday.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency overseeing the election, held a video call and set up multiple cameras so participants and media could watch its regulators count the votes.
Voter turnout was about 55%, according to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
Neither Amazon nor union officials were immediately available for comment.
The vote count followed more than a week of challenges to hundreds of ballots during closed-door proceedings that could influence the final result. Lawyers for Amazon and the union were allowed to question ballots on suspicion of tampering, a voter’s eligibility and other issues.
The labor board is expected to adjudicate the challenges in coming days.
Amazon for years has discouraged attempts among its more than 800,000 U.S. employees to organize, including by showing managers how to identify union activity, raising wages and warning union dues would cut into pay, according to a prior training video, public statements and the company's union election website.
Those efforts, plus allegations by some staff of an arduous or unsafe workplace, have made unionizing Amazon a key goal for the U.S. labor movement, which is aiming to reverse long-running declines. Union membership fell to 11% of the eligible workforce in 2020 from 20% in 1983, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has said.
Amazon has said it is following all NLRB rules and wants employees to understand each side of the contest, and that the RWDSU does not represent a majority of its employees’ views. The company has said it wants as many of its employees to vote as possible.
Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU's president, has said more than 1,000 Amazon workers from other warehouses have asked if they could join the union.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco, Mike Spector in New York and Nandita Bose in Washington; Additional reporting by Hilary Russ in New York and David Shepardson in Washington; writing by Anna Driver, editing by Lisa Shumaker)