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Amazon Union Testifies to US Senate

Meanwhile Senator Sanders proposes bill to punish Bezos

Posted on
Mar 18, 2021

On Wednesday, the effort to organize Amazon was brought to the Senate. Jennifer Bates, an Amazon worker in Bessemer, Alabama testified on what it is like to work in an Amazon warehouse, while Senator Bernie Sanders used the hearing to rail against Jeff Bezos. Read more about the Senate hearing below.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Wednesday escalated support among top Democrats for a historic union drive at an Amazon (AMZN) warehouse in Alabama, inviting a worker at the facility to speak at a hearing on inequality.

"Working at an Amazon warehouse is no easy thing," says Jennifer Bates, who has worked at the facility since last May and supports the union drive. "Shifts are long, the pace is super fast, you're constantly being watched and monitored. They seem to think you're another machine."

At the hearing before the Senate's powerful budget committee, Democrats asserted that large corporations have exacerbated wealth inequality and distorted markets. The hearing, “The Income and Wealth Inequality Crisis in America," comes after President Joe Biden released a video defending the right of workers to unionize and made reference to "workers in Alabama," widely perceived as an allusion to the labor battle at the tech giant.

Amazon has aggressively opposed the union drive, hiring the same law firm — Morgan Lewis — that it did when it fought a union drive at a Delaware warehouse in 2014. Plus, the company created a website that warns of onerous dues payments and the negative impact of a union on day-to-day operations.

Sanders, who chairs the budget committee, said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos declined an invitation to testify. Even so, Sanders addressed a question to him in absence.

"You are the wealthiest person in the world," Sanders says. "Why are you doing everything in your power to stop your workers in Bessemer, Alabama from joining a union so that they can negotiate for better wages, better benefits and better working conditions?"

'We decided to stand up and say something'

During the hearing, Bates, the Amazon worker, described work at the Amazon warehouse, highlighted demands that include safety protections and the reinstatement of hazard pay, and criticized the company's efforts to dissuade workers from supporting the union.

"For so long people have been walking away from jobs for disrespect and inequality," she adds. "Nobody has been standing up and saying it's time to hold people accountable. We decided to stand up and say something."

In a statement to Yahoo Finance last month, Amazon defended its opposition to union organizing among employees in Alabama.

“The fact is that Amazon already offers what unions are requesting for employees: industry-leading pay, comprehensive benefits from the first day on the job, opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern work environment,” Amazon Spokesperson Maria Boschetti said.

The novel coronavirus has fueled record e-commerce revenue for Amazon as hundreds of millions of Americans have been forced into their homes, prompting the hiring of hundreds of thousands of workers and plans to expand its warehouse network.

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