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NY Times

Amazon Brings Union-Busting to the Bathroom

Workers are facing an all out anti-union assault from Amazon

Kris LaGrange's picture
Feb 03, 2021

On February 8th, workers at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer Alabama will begin voting on whether Amazon should have their first union. The warehouse, which opened in March 2020, is organizing with the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). According to the union, over 2,000 workers have signed union authorization cards. The vote will take place by mail from February 8th through the end of March and votes will be counted on March 30th.

While the company has been making money hand over fist, that money hasn’t trickled down to the workers. Alabama Amazon workers faced one of the largest COVID outbreaks and workers say that they aren’t treated like humans but rather as part of the data stream. Below is a video from More Perfect Union that gives a good synopsis of why the workers at Bessemer are organizing.

 

Amazon is so worried that RWDSU could gain a foothold within their company that they are going to great lengths to stop the organizing effort. First, the company demanded that seasonal workers be included in the bargaining unit. This significantly increased the number of eligible voters to about 5,800 people. The company has also been attempting to stop the vote from taking place by mail. Instead, they want workers to vote in person where the company will be able to monitor who is voting for the union and put more pressure on the workers to vote no. The union and the workers are opposed to this since it puts them at a much greater health risk. A judge agreed and is allowing the mail-in vote to go forward.  This fight seems rich coming from a company that makes their money through the mail system and saw huge profits from consumers who wanted to shop remotely.

"The outrageous demand that 5,800 workers should have to vote in person in the midst of a pandemic demonstrates Amazon's blatant disregard for the safety of its employees,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum.

Amazon has also been subjecting the workers to a harsh anti-union campaign. According to The Guardian, this includes holding captive audience meetings, setting up a website to discourage the workers from joining the union, and even sending texts to the workers. One text from the company claimed workers will “be giving up your right to speak for yourself” by signing a union authorization card and emphasizing union dues, claiming “unions are a business,” telling workers “don’t let the union take your money for nothing” and prompting them to visit Amazon’s anti-union website DoItWithoutDues.com. Amazon has also been running Facebook ads targeted at the workers. These ads tell workers to vote No in the election.

The company has even gone as far as putting flyers in bathroom stalls telling people to vote against the union. According to the Washington Post, one flyer read “Where Will Your Union Dues Go?”

“They got right in your face when you’re using the stall,” said Darryl Richardson, a worker at the warehouse who supports the union.

In a letter to the members from Randy Hadley, the President of the Mid-South Council of RWDSU, he addressed some of the issues that Amazon is hammering home on the workers. He said contrary to what the company is saying, workplaces with a union are not in constant states of conflict. Instead, most have a strong relationship with management. He also addressed Amazon’s claim that the union will “pull you out on strike.” In reality, Hadley said, a strike will only happen with the support of the majority of workers and he noted that strikes are rare. Finally, he addressed the idea of forced union dues, reminding workers that since Alabama is a Right to Work state no one will be forced to pay dues. He also said that even if you vote for the union, you have the decision on whether or not to join the union and pay dues..  

“When it comes to this union-busting, it’s severe. We’ve never seen anything like it on this level,” said Joshua Brewer, an organizer with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “This is something that has always been and will continue to always be the people of Bessemer, the workers at Amazon coming together. This was theirs and will always be theirs.”

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