The Biggest Attempt To Unionize Amazon Workers In US Fails
Tremendous blow for labor rights in the United States . The workers of the plant Amazon in Bessemer (Alabama) have overwhelmingly rejected the proposal to join a union , a decision that had progressed, would become its nearly 5,800 employees in the first and only to have union representation within the e-commerce giant .
The vote resulted in 1,798 votes against, compared to 738 in favor among the more than 3,000 votes cast, a percentage large enough so that the nearly 500 challenged ballots do not alter the outcome. The result has already been appealedby the union that aspired to represent the workers, which Amazon accuses of having used illegal methods to block the initiative.
While many of Amazon’s employees in Europe have union representation, in the US, Jeff Bezos’s company has aggressively resisted allowing its workforce to organize. So difficult is it to wade through its pressures that this was only the second vote held in its 26-year history .
And although less than 1% of its 950,000 employees work at the Bessemer warehouse , which makes Amazon the second largest employer in the country behind Walmart , labor rights advocates hoped it would serve to open the floodgates of a behemoth that has been accused ofimpose Stakhanovistic conditions on its workers .
One worker at the Bessemer plant said, for example, that he has to pick up 300 items an hour from cupboards and often doesn’t even have time to go to the bathroom without getting into trouble.
The timing was particularly propitious because the United States now has the president most sympathetic to the unions in nearly a century , a Joe Biden who supported the workers’ initiative, as well as other figures with notable political weight, such as the Democrat Bernie Sanders or the Republican Marco Rubio .
The former are trying to reverse the hostility towards unions of the past four decades, in which membership has plummeted. Only 10% of American workers belong to a union, a considerably higher figure among public officials than in the private sector. In Gallup polls, about 65% of Americans support unions, one of the highest numbers in recent times.
In Alabama’s lengthy voting campaign, Amazon argued that union membership is unnecessary because its temporary workers earn $ 15 an hour, double the minimum wage , and receive health insurance and other generous benefits.
But the company did not hesitate to resort to all kinds of tricks and intimidation tactics to defend its position, as denounced by the Union of Retail, Wholesale and Shopping Center Workers that aspired to represent the Bessemer warehouse staff.
“Amazon has not left a stone untouched in its efforts to blind its own employees. We are not going to allow Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities to go unanswered, ”said the union’s president, Stuart Applebaum, to justify his decision to appeal the result to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) . Many of these tactics have been thoroughly documented in the press.
Initially, the company of the richest man in the world, the one that has expanded its workforce the most during the pandemic, tried to prevent its workers from voting by mailand lobbied the Postal Service to end up installing an urn outside the plant, a move rejected by the NLRB in concluding that it could be seen as a method of monitoring workers and potentially retaliating.
Pressure on workers
He also sold the idea that union approval would have forced all of its workers to pay a fee, when Alabama is part of the ‘Right to Work’ states , where fees are only voluntary. At the same time, he put direct pressure on the workers .
He plastered the bathrooms with anti-union posters and bombarded workers with several text messages and emails a day urging them to vote against the initiative. He also dispatched managers from other plants to explain personally why they should vote against and hired local police officers to guard outside the warehouse during off-duty hours.
Amazon is one of the companies that has made the most money during the pandemic, as lockdowns triggered e-commerce. Last year, it had a turnover of $ 386 billion in sales and its share price increased 76%, according to the Wall Street Journal. Since then it has hired more than 500,000 workers globally to cope with the explosive boom in demand.