Alabama Amazon workers to vote again with mailed ballots in union election and more business news

In this March 30, 2021 file photo, a banner encouraging workers to vote in labor balloting is shown at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. Amazon, under pressure to improve worker rights, has reached a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board to allow its workers to organize freely and without retaliation. According to the agreement, the online behemoth said it would reach out to both current and former warehouse workers via email who were on the job from March 22 to now to notify them of their organizing rights. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves, File)

Amazon union vote to be by mail in March by mail

A federal labor board said that Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama will vote by mail next month in a re-run election to decide whether or not to unionize.

The National Labor Relations Board said Tuesday that the ballots will be mailed out Feb. 4 and must be returned before the counting starts on March 28.

The move comes roughly a month and a half after the board ordered a new union election for Amazon workers based on objections by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to the first vote that took place in April.

The move was a blow to Amazon, which spent about a year aggressively campaigning for warehouse workers in Bessemer to reject the union, which they ultimately did by a wide margin.

In a 20-page decision, the regional director for the NLRB Lisa Henderson focused much attention on Amazon's installation of a U.S. Postal Service mailbox at the main employee entrance, which may have created the false impression that the company was the one conducting the election process. Henderson also rejected Amazon's argument that it was making voting easier and was trying to encourage as high a turnout as possible.

Judge allows antitrust case against Facebook

A federal judge on Tuesday allowed the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust lawsuit against Facebook to move forward, rejecting Facebook's request to dismiss the case and handing the agency a major victory in its quest to curtail the power of the biggest tech companies.

The judge, James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, said last year that the FTC had not provided sufficient evidence that the company, which has since renamed itself Meta, had a monopoly in social media and abused that power by harming competition. The agency refiled the case in August, and on Tuesday Boasberg said that it had provided adequate support.

But he also included some caveats. Boasberg said the agency could proceed with its claims that the company abused its monopoly power through acquisitions, which the agency has described as a "buy-or-bury" strategy. He dismissed, however, the agency's charge that Facebook violated antitrust laws by cutting off third parties from its platform.

The facts provided by the agency, he said, "are far more robust and detailed than before, particularly in regard to the contours of defendant's alleged monopoly."

The judge's decision is a major step forward for regulators battling the powerful armies of lobbyists and litigators employed to protect the empires built by tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Their combined market value has surpassed $7 trillion.

U.S. Steel plans mill in northeast Arkansas

United States Steel Corp. on Tuesday announced it's building a $3 billion mill in northeast Arkansas that's expected to employ at least 900 people.

The Pittsburgh-based company announced it has chosen Osceola for the site of its new mill, with construction expected to begin early this year and to be completed 2024. Osceola is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Memphis, Tennessee.

"With this location selected and shovels ready, we are reshaping the future of steelmaking," U. S. Steel President and CEO David B. Burritt said in a statement. "We had numerous competitive site options, but Osceola offers our customers incomparable advantages."

Arkansas lawmakers last month passed an incentive package aimed at helping lure the steel project to the state, including an income tax credit for recycling equipment for the facility.

The facility will be located near the existing Big River Steel plant, also owned by U.S. Steel. Another steel mill owned by Nucor Steel is also in the area.

- Compiled by Dave Flessner