The New York Times reports that a unionization campaign at an Amazon warehouse if Bessemer, Alabama, that "had deliberately stayed under the radar for months has in recent days blossomed into a star-studded showdown to influence the workers. On one side is the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and its many pro-labor allies in the worlds of politics, sports and Hollywood. On the other is one of the world’s dominant companies, an e-commerce behemoth that has warded off previous unionizing efforts at its U.S. facilities over its more than 25-year history.
"The attention is turning this union vote into a referendum not just on working conditions at the Bessemer warehouse, which employs 5,800, but on the plight of low-wage employees and workers of color in particular. Many of the employees in the Alabama warehouse are Black, a fact that the union organizers have highlighted in their campaign seeking to link the vote to the struggle for civil rights in the South.
"The retail workers union has a long history of organizing Black workers in the poultry and food production industries, helping them gain basic benefits like paid time off and safety protections and a means to economic security. The union is portraying its efforts in Bessemer as part of that legacy."
The Times writes that "Amazon’s countercampaign, both inside the warehouse and on a national stage, has zeroed in on pure economics: that its starting wage is $15 an hour, plus benefits. That is far more than its competitors in Alabama, where the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
"'It’s important that employees understand the facts of joining a union,' Heather Knox, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement. 'We will provide education about that and the election process so they can make an informed decision. If the union vote passes, it will impact everyone at the site and it’s important associates understand what that means for them and their day-to-day life working at Amazon'."
Voting began in early February and will conclude at the end of March. A simple majority wins the day.
You can read the story here.
- KC's View:
I know there are all sorts of legal reasons not to do so, but life would be so much simpler - and more transparent - if companies like Amazon could just say that they are anti-union, and be done with it. That certainly seems to be the reality of the situation.
Certainly Amazon has to be concerned that if it loses this election, it will have a domino effect. And the battle becomes harder when it is not just about wages and working conditions, but also about economic inequality and social justice.