A year after workers first entered a new Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, the curtain was set to fall on a milestone union vote at the facility, CNN reported.
Milestone Union Vote At Amazon To Close, But Battle Likely To Continue
The National Labor Relations Board had set Monday as the final day for receipt of ballots for counting in the election. The vote, which would be tallied later this week, would determine whether workers at the facility would form the first US union in the 27-year history of the company.
It had been around two months since the warehouse workers had become eligible to vote by mail on unionization. Workers had had to make the decision as union organizers, politicians including President Joe Biden, celebrities, and Amazon reached out to them through messages. Amazon had put up signs in bathroom stalls and conducted workers meetings ahead of the election period’s start.
The final days of the union election would see an intensification of activity around the vote. Senator Bernie Sanders, a long-time critic of the e-commerce giant, had planned a rally in Birmingham at the union headquarters on Friday. Sanders had targeted the e-commerce giant on several issues, including how much it paid in federal taxes and compensation of warehouse workers. Sanders’ rally planned as a final push would also see Atlanta rapper better known as Killer Mike and Danny Glover actor and activist share the stage with him.
According to commentators, much tension had built up over Sanders’ visit. Amazon executive Dave Clark took aim at the Senator tweeting often said Amazon was the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that was not strictly correct as the company delivered a progressive workplace. By way of evidence, Clark cited Amazon’s $15 minimum hourly wage, which is implemented in 2018 following criticism from Sanders and others.
But whether the high decibel support from well-known figures would be able to sway workers to vote yes was not clear.
According to Jennifer Brown, a training ambassador at the facility, who spoke to CNN, not even Glover, who had campaigned in favour of unionization outside the facility in late February, could make her change her mind. She said Amazon had been great for her, and she had faced no real problems.
According to commentators, even as the outcome of the vote remained uncertain, one thing was clear to both labour experts and union organizers: the high-profile fight would continue beyond the vote tally.
According to Stuart Appelbaum, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union president, they had long known that the campaign only marked a beginning, irrespective of the result. He added it was a lot more than Bessemer. The union was conducting the drive for Amazon workers at the facility.
He went on to add that what they had done was crucial as they had opened the door to unionizing at Amazon. He said they had gone further than anyone else had, in the past had come close, and Amazon had failed to anticipate it.
According to commentators, the Bessemer workers were only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of the company’s warehouse employees. While the pandemic came as a bonanza for Amazon, safety precautions and general conditions had also played a role in the rising disaffection of workers at facilities.
In recent months, workers elsewhere who faced similar issues were looking to address these with union representation help. The issues ranged from adequate break time, higher wages, and protection against wrongful application of policies like social distancing aimed at disciplining workers.
According to Appelbaum, over 1,000 warehouse workers from across the US had contacted the RWDSU. He added they had also received requests for assistance from workers at overseas facilities.