Amazon workers beat Union Effort in Alabama

Adventuress Workers in a huge warehouse in Alabama voted decisively against forming a union on Friday, killing people. The most important labor drive Circumstances have appeared ripe for the unions to advance when in the history of the Internet giant and to deal with crushing organizers, Democrats and their allies.

Workers cast 1,798 votes against a union, allowing Amazon to vigorously defeat the effort. According to federal officials, the ballots were in favor of a union with at least 30 percent more votes at 738.

Bessemer, Ala. The result, omitted in a warehouse of 6,000 people, also came in the form of an epidemic effect on the economy and the election of a pro-labor president made the country more aware of the plight of essential workers.

Amazon, which has Repeated labor activism, Appeared vulnerable to increasing scrutiny in Washington and around the world for its market power and influence. President Biden indicated support for the union’s effort, as did Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent. The epidemic, which prompted millions of people to shop online, also raised questions about Amazon’s potential Keep those employees safe.

But in an aggressive campaign, the company argued that its workers had access to rewarding jobs without the need to involve the union. Victory leaves Amazon free to handle employees on its own terms Has gone on a hiring spree And expanded its work force to more than 1.3 million people.

Margaret O’Mara, a professor at the University of Washington who researches the history of technology companies, said Amazon’s message said it offered good jobs with good salaries, which dominated criticisms by the union and its supporters . The result, she said, “reads as a vengeance.”

He said that when it was just a warehouse, the election had attracted so much attention that it had become a “bellwester”. Because of the Amazon victory, there was a possibility of organized labor thinking, “Maybe it’s not worth trying in other places,” Ms. O’Mara said.

Retail, wholesale and department store unions, which led the campaign, blamed their losses, stating that Amazon’s anti-union strategy before and during voting was held from late last month to early February. Went. The union said it would challenge the result and ask federal labor officials to investigate Amazon to create “an atmosphere of confusion, coercion and / or fear.”

“Our system is broken,” union president Stuart Appelbaum said. “Amazon took full advantage of this.”

Amazon said in a statement, “The union will say that Amazon won this election because we scared the employees, but it is not true.” It added, “Amazon could not win – our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union.”

Nearly half of the 5,876 eligible voters on warehouse ballots in the election. Most votes or 1,521 were needed to win. About 500 ballots were contested, largely by Amazon, the union said. Those ballots were not counted. If it had been voted through the union, it would have been the first for Amazon workers in the United States.

William and LaVonette Stokes, who began work at the Bessemer warehouse in July, said the union failed to explain to them how it could improve their working conditions. Amazon already offers good benefits, relatively high wages that start at $ 15 an hour and opportunities to move forward, said the couple, who have five children.

“Amazon is the only job I know of that pays their health insurance from Day 1,” said Ms. Stokes, 52 years old. He said that the organizers had tried to cast the union drive as an extension of the union Black Lives Matter movement Because most of the workers are Black.

“It was not an African-American issue,” Ms. Stokes said. “I think you can work there comfortably without being disturbed.”

At a press conference held by Amazon on Friday, Mr. Stokes and other workers said they were concerned that they wanted the company to be addressed, such as better training for managers and anti-bias coaching.

“We think we can do it without union,” he said. “Why pay the union to do what we can do ourselves?”

Pro-union Amazon workers said they were conflicted with the result. Emmet Ashford, an employee of the Bessemer warehouse, said at a press conference organized by the union, “Of course we are disappointed and angry about this election.”

He and other activists said they hoped the election result would be overturned due to Amazon’s anti-union strategy, adding that they were proud to inspire workers in other warehouses to consider unionizing.

“Our time will come again,” said Mr. Ashford.

The vote may lead to a rethinking of the strategy within the labor movement.

For years, union organizers have tried to exploit growing concerns about low-paid workers to break into Amazon. Retail, wholesale and department store unions held important themes of support for black essential workers in the epidemic. The union estimated that 85 percent of the workers in the Bessemer warehouse were Black.

The inability to organize the warehouse follows decades of unsuccessful and costly efforts to form a union at Walmart, the only American company that employs more people than Amazon. Repeated failures at the two giant companies may lead labor organizers to focus on national policies such as a higher federal minimum wage than creating individual workplaces.

Democrats in Washington, who put all their weight behind the union effort, said the loss showed that they needed to push for changes in labor and rebel laws. the house of Representatives Passed an extension Worker protection this year, but it is unlikely to be approved in the Senate.

In an interview, Michigan Democrat representative for Michigan Democrat Andy Levin said, “Workers cannot organize absentee labor law reform on the scale of full stop.”

The Amazon warehouse, on the outskirts of Birmingham, opened a year ago, as soon as the epidemic caught up. It was part of a major expansion of the company that intensified during the epidemic. Last year, Amazon increased its workforce to more than 400,000 in the United States, where it now has approximately one million employees. Warehouse workers typically collect and box items orders for customers.

The effort of unionization came together quickly, especially for such a big goal. A small group of workers at Bessemer’s building contacted the local branch of the retail workers’ union last summer. They were disappointed at how Amazon continuously monitored every second of their workday through technology, and they felt that their managers were not ready to listen to their complaints.

Organizers quickly found support, asking at least 2,000 activists to sign cards saying they wanted an election, enough for the National Labor Relations Board, which would hold union elections, to approve an election is.

Some labor experts said that the erosion of that initial support showed the power employers had to campaign against unions through the holding of mandatory meetings and to talk to employees during working hours. Others said the union’s failure reflected problems with its organized strategy, including gaining the support of national politicians and celebrities.

The election was conducted by mail, a concession to the epidemic. The workers had more than a month to complete and mail their ballots, which were to be held on March 29, instead of holding elections in just a few days.

Focused on Amazon’s public campaign What did the company already provide And $ 15 minimum salary in benefits, which is twice the Alabama minimum. Internally it was emphasized that workers do not need to pay for union membership to do a great job. The company’s slogan – “without owing it” – was pushed to workers in text messages, mandatory meetings and signs in bathroom stalls.

Ms O’Mara said the union made a lot of complaints about job stability and safety, which made it difficult for workers to organize. This is because the versatility of storage jobs “works against the desire to build solidarity and invest in that employer and that job,” she said.

Several labor leaders have said it was important to criticize Amazon for reversing the long-term decline in union membership, which fell from the upper teens to only 6 percent of the private sector in the early 1980s.

He argued that Amazon had the power of millions of workers in the industries in which it worked. The company’s dominance, he said, forced competitors to adopt their own labor practices, which placed a priority on efficiency.

“Amazon is changing industries one after the other,” Mr. Appelbaum, President of the Retail Workers Union, said in a 2019 interview. “Amazon’s vision of the world is not the vision we want or can bear.” He often referred to an attempt to unionize the Amazon as a battle over the “future of work”.

Some union leaders said that the campaign in Bessemer would pursue Labour’s goals even if the campaign ended at a disadvantage.

“The election generated a ton of coverage and discussion, and people all over the country are hearing that unions are the solution,” said Sarah Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. “We are actually able to have a real discussion about the union.”

Reporting was contributed by Noam Sheheber, Sophia june, David maccabe And Miles McKinley.

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