Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama are right now in the middle of a voting process that could potentially define the future of trade and worker unions in the United States of America. Workers of the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama are currently mailing-in voting ballots on a vote to create a bargaining unit represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The deadline for the mail-in voting ballots is March 29.
Efforts to unionize workers at Amazon’s Bessemer facility yielded results in November 2020, when workers from the facility filed a notice to the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, seeking to hold an election to establish a bargaining unit that would cover 1,500 full-time and part-time workers. This push for unionization has been opposed by Amazon every step of the way, with Amazon attempting to delay the unionization bid, pushing for in-person voting and not mail-in ballots in the middle of a pandemic etc.
Throughout the run up to the start of the voting process on February 8, Amazon employed a diversity of tactics in order to convince its workers to vote down the unionization efforts. Amazon workers at the Bessemer facility were subject to an intense anti-union campaign from Amazon. Anti-union posters were put on the doors inside the bathroom stalls of the Bessemer facility, with workers describing Amazon’s aggressive campaigning as “harassment”.
There is a reason why Amazon is going to these lengths in order to defeat the unionization effort. The unionization attempt at Amazon’s Bessemer facility will be the first ever unionization of an Amazon facility on U.S. soil. This is in turn could cause a domino effect, cascading its success onto other Amazon facilities attempting to unionize. The domino effect can also spill off to companies other than Amazon which don’t have a unionized workforce like Walmart, sparking a wave of unionization all across America. Therefore, Amazon is pulling out all the stops to defeat the Bessemer unionization attempt and the nip any potential unionization wave in the bud.
Amazon’s attitude towards the unionization of its workforce has surprisingly elicited criticism for all sides of the political spectrum. Left-wing Progressive U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is expectedly critical of Amazon and in favor of unions. In a U.S. Senate Budget Committee held on Wednesday to discuss the issue of The Income and Wealth Inequality Crisis in America, Sen. Sanders decried the non-attendance of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Sen. Sanders said that were Bezos present, Sanders would ask him, “Why are you doing everything in your power to stop your workers in Bessemer, Alabama from joining a union?”
U.S. President Joe Biden came out in support of the workers at the Bessemer facility with a video message. In the tweet accompanying the message, Biden declares, “Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union.”
Workers in Alabama – and all across America – are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace. It’s a vitally important choice – one that should be made without intimidation or threats by employers.— President Biden (@POTUS) March 1, 2021
Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union. pic.twitter.com/2lzbyyii1g
Even Republican Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator from Florida has expressed support for the unionization of Amazon workers. In an op-ed with USA Today, Rubio writes, “For decades, companies like Amazon have been allies of the left in the culture war, but when their bottom line is threatened they turn to conservatives to save them.”
Marco Rubio continues, “But the days of conservatives being taken for granted by the business community are over. Here’s my standard: When the conflict is between working Americans and a company whose leadership has decided to wage culture war against working-class values, the choice is easy — I support the workers. And that’s why I stand with those at Amazon’s Bessemer warehouse today.”
Thus, Amazon is facing pressure from both sides of the political aisle as it faces the idea of its workers unionizing. However, this is not a surprise when one observes the political activism of Amazon as a company, which has attracted the well-deserved ire of American conservatives. Amazon has utilized groups with a bias against conservatives. Last year, Amazon gave out $27 million worth of donations to organizations in an effort to combat “systemic racism”. Not only that, CEO Jeff Bezos, the richest man on Earth, decided to virtue-signal on Instagram, blasting a random Amazon customer’s pro-All Lives Matter email to his 2.7 million followers on Instagram.
Amazon has also utilized the services of anti-conservative groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in order to kick conservative groups off of its AmazonSmiles service. Amazon has also removed books written by conservative authors from its listings, without offering any specific explanations. Therefore, a Left-wing effort to unionize Amazon workers can only be seen as the result of an environment which was cultivated by Amazon itself.