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For union battling Amazon, victory could bring a stalemate

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For the union trying to organize nearly 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, a successful election in the coming weeks could only be the beginning of the struggle to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the company.

Workers at the fulfillment center in Bessemer, a Birmingham suburb, have been voting since late February on whether to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union — an election that has drawn nationwide attention because it could result in Amazon’s first unionized facility in the U.S. The National Labor Relations Board will begin tallying the votes on Tuesday.

But initial collective bargaining agreements usually take years to hammer out at the negotiating table. More than half of workplaces that form unions are unable to reach an initial contract within a year, according to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, and 37 percent of newly formed private-sector unions still have no contract after two years.

“It’s so difficult to hold an employer accountable,” said Celine McNicholas, director of government affairs and labor counsel at EPI. And even if the union engages in “this protracted legal battle, you know the penalty that the employer is facing is quite frankly minimal.”

The outcome of the election is being so closely watched because the stakes go far beyond this warehouse. If the campaign in Republican stronghold Alabama is successful, it could spark more organizing efforts at Amazon and other large retailers across the U.S. If it fails, it could galvanize Democrats’ fight to push through one of the broadest expansions of collective bargaining rights in nearly a century. At the same time, it could embolden many companies to take an even harder line against organized labor.

That’s why the Amazon organizing effort has taken on such broad significance politically. Even before the votes in Bessemer are counted, President Joe Biden, other Democrats and their labor allies are using the election to push for their union-friendly overhaul of federal labor law.

If Amazon were to drag its feet on an initial contract, the union could call on the NLRB to order management to bargain with the workers. However, that legal process can span months, even years, especially if the company were to appeal any enforcement moves from the labor board.

Amazon can legally refuse to bargain with the union if it challenges an issue related to the election. The company already sought to delay the union vote and require that ballots be cast in person rather than by mail. The NLRB approved a seven-week mail-in ballot election, instead of an in-person election that typically takes place over a few days, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Heather Knox, a spokesperson for Amazon, said in response: “RWDSU membership has been declining for the last two decades, but that is not justification for its president, Stuart Appelbaum, to misrepresent the facts. Our employees know the truth—starting wages of $15 or more, health care from day one, and a safe and inclusive workplace. We encouraged all of our employees to vote and hope they did so.”

The company declined to say how it would respond if the workers voted to unionize.

Union leaders said they are prepared for Amazon to dig in for a fight and are already using their effort in Alabama to promote the legislation in Congress, known as the PRO Act, that would make it easier for unions to organize.

“I wouldn’t put it past Amazon to try to come up with any excuse that it could find to overturn an election where workers win,” said Appelbaum, the union president. “There has never been a greater argument for labor law reform and the PRO Act than this election.”

Whether the e-commerce giant could go as far as to shutter the facility in response to a successful union election is murky.

“The law is clear about one thing, and that is that a business can completely, completely, 100 percent go out of business, even just to avoid a union,” said Andrew MacDonald, a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP in Philadelphia. “But there’s a less clear line, more of a gray area, where the company, partially, says shut down a plant or shut down one facility while others remain open.”

Amazon could also face trouble if it were to transfer some operations from Alabama to a non-unionized fulfillment center elsewhere.

MacDonald pointed to a 2011 labor dispute with Boeing Co., which decided to transfer a second production line for its 787 Dreamliner from a unionized facility in Washington to a non-union shop in South Carolina. The acting general counsel of the NLRB issued a complaint against the company, alleging the move violated federal labor law.

In that case, “the union in Washington and the labor board saw that as being motivated to avoid the union, not just making a business decision of where to make the plane,” MacDonald said.

The union later withdrew its complaint against Boeing after striking a new deal with the company governing other production in Washington.

If a company and a union are unable to reach an initial collective bargaining agreement after a successful organizing effort, provisions in the PRO Act would require them to go to mediation and arbitration.

“The law permits an employer to bargain essentially in bad faith,” said McNicholas. “The remedies are so weak that you can essentially drag your feet through the bargaining and frustrate the workforce such that they’re not getting any contract in the first year.”

Opponents of the PRO Act, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argue that the legislation tilts too far in favor of unions and would harm the economy by costing jobs.

The unusual public attention on the Bessemer union drive has put both political and consumer pressure on Amazon that could keep the company in line, union and worker advocates say.

“Unlike most collective bargaining, this attempt to achieve a first contract is going to be the focus of a lot of public attention,” said Appelbaum. “I think that Amazon is going to be held accountable under the glare of the public spotlight. And that’s going to restrict what it is going to be able to do to prevent workers from getting a contract.”

This blog originally appeared at Politico on March 29, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter.


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‘Bellwether’ for unions: Amazon battle could transform Biden’s labor revival

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Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday thrust himself into the middle of a bitter labor dispute at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama where union leaders are locked in a two-month drive to organize workers.

But the stakes in this battle go far beyond the struggle involving nearly 6,000 workers at the fulfillment center in Bessemer.

“What you’re doing is for workers across the country,” Sanders declared during a rally of dozens of workers at a union hall in Birmingham, just a 20-minute drive from the Bessemer facility. “They know if you succeed here, it will spread all over the country.”

If the push in red-state Alabama is successful, it could galvanize more organizing efforts at Amazon and other large retailers across the country. If it fails, it could become a lightning rod for Democrats’ efforts to push through one of the broadest expansions of collective bargaining rights in nearly a century — yet, at the same time, embolden a triumphal business community to harden its stance against organized labor.

“The implications of this election transcend this one warehouse, and even this company,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is organizing the workers. “It’s about the future of work, and how workers are going to be treated.”

The visit by Sanders, a Vermont independent, comes at a pivotal moment for Democrats’ and President Joe Biden’s sweeping efforts to rebuild the middle class by empowering workers and unions. Their proposals to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 and make it easier for employees to unionize are being met by a wall of opposition from Republicans and the business lobby, who say such moves would cripple the economy and bleed American jobs. And the Democrats’ lack of a clear majority in the Senate will make passage of any far-reaching legislation difficult.

The employees at the Amazon warehouse — a majority of them women and minorities — were considered “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic and ordered to continue working as much of the rest of the economy shuttered. Workers say they began organizing over concerns about the spread of the virus, and their frustration over racial injustice sparked by the George Floyd protests last spring. But the complaints go beyond the pandemic to what some say are onerous conditions.

“Amazon is a big plant, about the size of a football field. They want us to go to the bathroom and come back to the machine in five minutes,” said Linda Burns, who was injured on the job at the Bessemer facility. “They say we have quote unquote good insurance. I’m still getting bills in the mail off y’alls good insurance.”

Jennifer Bates, who also works at the facility, brought her case to Washington.

“Amazon’s going to poor communities claiming that they want to help the economic growth,” Bates said during a recent congressional hearing. “That should mean … a living wage and benefits that truly match the cost of living, and ensur[ing] workers work in safe and healthy conditions, because we are not robots designed to only live to work.”

Amazon responded to the union drive by requiring workers to attend “union education meetings,” Bates told members of Congress, as well as posting “anti-union” signs around the fulfillment center and sending messages to workers’ phones.

Amazon declined to comment for this article. But the e-commerce giant’s corporate Twitter account in recent days has directly addressed Democrats’ criticism about working conditions at its facility.

Sanders “has been a powerful politician in Vermont for 30 years and their min wage is still $11.75,” the company tweeted on Friday. “Amazon’s is $15, plus great health care from day one. Sanders would rather talk in Alabama than act in Vermont.”

The National Labor Relations Board will begin counting the votes on March 30, a process that could take a week or longer. The voting itself spanned two months because it was done by mail-in ballot as a safety precaution during the pandemic. In-person voting might have taken a few days.

Those critical of labor unions caution that such drives are often heavily influenced from elsewhere and can leave local workers caught in the fray.

“There are definitely concerted, planned, well-financed campaigns by major labor unions to come in from the outside and organize new, high-profile workplaces, and the Amazon campaign is a great example of that,” said Maxford Nelsen, director of labor policy at the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit that’s critical of unions. “And employees are in the middle of trying to pick between the two sides.”

Nelsen rejected the idea that the union vote carried any broader significance for American labor policy.

“If the employees at the end of the day vote against unionization. I think that means a majority of the employees weren’t convinced by the union’s arguments,” Nelsen added. “That doesn’t mean anything more, anything less than that.”

The landmark labor law overhaul bill backed by Biden and unions, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, would prohibit companies from requiring their workers to attend anti-union meetings, Sanders told reporters after the rally.

It would also call for management to go to mediation and arbitration with the union if the two sides are unable to reach an initial collective bargaining agreement.

That bill passed the House earlier this month with just five GOP votes in support, making it a long shot in the 50-50 Senate.

But union and worker advocates say the unusual public attention on the union drive and the conditions at the fulfillment center have captured the moment and are emblematic of how weak federal labor laws and widening economic inequality have stacked the odds against workers.

“There has never been a greater argument for labor law reform and the PRO Act than this election,” said Appelbaum, the union leader.

Alabama is one of 27 states that have enacted right-to-work laws, meaning that workers can opt out of union membership if they choose. The PRO Act would allow unions to override those laws and collect “fair share fees” from non-members for the costs of collective bargaining.

Unions say they are already seeing momentum from the effort in Bessemer, and that the drive could also mobilize hesitant workers in states with stricter collective bargaining laws as well as younger workers who may be unfamiliar with unions after years of declines in membership.

And their next target may not be far away. Amazon already has plans to expand in Bessemer and neighboring Birmingham later this year.

“I think this campaign can be seen as a bellwether for things to come,” said Christian Sweeney, deputy organizing director for the AFL-CIO. “We’re seeing more interest on the part of workers in the South in lots of different sectors, from manufacturing to higher education to health care.”

This blog originally appeared at Politico on March 26, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter.


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Amazon touts high pay for warehouse workers, but $15 isn’t all that, this week in the war on workers

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As its workers in Bessemer, Alabama, seek to unionize, Amazon keeps touting its $15 an hour pay—more than double the federal minimum wage, which applies in Alabama. But it turns out that’s not such a great thing to brag about in that area.

“The most recent figure for the median wage in greater Birmingham, a metropolitan area of roughly one million people that includes Bessemer, was nearly $3 above Amazon’s pay there, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” The New York Times reports. Jennifer Bates, an Amazon worker who earned more in a previous job, pointed to Amazon’s support for a $15 federal minimum wage, saying: “It looks to me like Amazon is admitting it’s only paying a minimum wage, and this is not a minimum-wage job.”

But “high” pay isn’t the only way Amazon tries to keep unions out. The company has a history of surveilling, threatening, and retaliating against worker activists.

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on March 20, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a contributing editor since December 2006. Clawson has been full-time staff since 2011, and is currently assistant managing editor at the Daily Kos.


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The Teamsters Hint at a Combative National Project to Organize Amazon

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As the drive to unionize Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama draws international attention to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) that is leading the effort, other unions are planning their own strategies to organize parts of Amazon’s sprawling operations as well. The Teamsters, who see Amazon as a direct threat to their historic work organizing the trucking industry, are engaged in a concerted project targeting Amazon?—?and though they’re tight-lipped about the details, they appear committed to a long-term, nationwide effort that could make them one of the company’s most formidable union foes. 

The 1.4 million-member Teamsters are more than ten times bigger than the RWDSU. They see Amazon’s vast pool of non-union delivery employees as an existential threat to not only their own members, but to the ability of the trucking industry to provide living wage jobs. Randy Korgan, a goateed organizing veteran whose current title is Teamsters National Director for Amazon, frames the standoff with Jeff Bezos’ company as just the latest incarnation of a struggle that the union has been waging for more than a century. 

“We fought to regulate the industry because of the working conditions that were happening in the [19]20s, 30s, and 40s. We obviously find some similarities today,” Korgan says. Despite the popular view of the ?“roaring 20s” as a grand era, ?“history clearly shows that working people suffered greatly. And here we come back into the roaring 20s again. Is this a repeat of history? We’ve got to ask ourselves that.” 

Korgan is particularly angered by Amazon’s ongoing effort to portray itself as a good corporate citizen because it pays a $15 per hour minimum wage to its employees?—?a wage lower than what Korgan himself made as a union warehouse worker more than 30 years ago. Amazon itself is the primary driver of a process that is changing warehouse jobs that once paid a living wage into low-income, tenuous, temporary work. 

“At every level of the organization you see this high turnover rate, and then you see them introducing this rate of $15, $16 an hour and trying to claim that they need to be patted on the back,” says Korgan. ?“Aren’t they talking out of both sides of their mouth? Because what is the average wage of someone that works in a warehouse in this country, and is Amazon exploiting and capitalizing on that wage being reduced?”

Currently, the only Teamsters members with a direct connection to the company are workers at Atlas and ABX Air, two firms that do business with Amazon. But the union is eyeing a much larger pool of Amazon employees, particularly delivery drivers, many of whom work for subcontractors rather than for Amazon itself. Though this process serves to insulate Amazon, the Teamsters have in the past organized tens of thousands of workers at subcontractors throughout the trucking industry. Warehouses are also in the Teamsters traditional wheelhouse, and it was reported last month that the union has spent several months organizing hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers in Iowa, though the outcome of that campaign remains uncertain. 

The Teamsters have been chewing over the threat posed by Amazon for years. Various Teamster websites are rife with posts like ?“TEAMSTERS MUST TAKE NOTE OF THE DANGER ON THE HORIZON” and ?“TAKING ON AMAZON,” all of which note the direct threat the company poses to the stability of the entire transportation industry. But as the Alabama warehouse union campaign has drawn a tidal wave of press, the Teamsters are now loath to divulge too much of their strategy. Korgan is leading the union’s ?“Amazon Project,” and says he is engaged with workers across the country, and is ?“absolutely” working with other unions, as well. But he declines to discuss the project’s funding, timeline, or specific targets. He does, however, hint that the Teamsters may pursue a more radical and confrontational strategy when it comes time to seek union recognition from the famously intransigent company. 

The classic pathway of seeking an NLRB election to certify a union?—?the process that is currently underway for the Amazon workers in Alabama?—?has the benefits of being clearly defined by law, but it also enables companies to spend months bombarding workers with anti-union propaganda, and to throw money at legal challenges. Korgan implies that the Teamsters may seek other pathways to try to force voluntary recognition of unions. (In fact, a Teamsters organizer in Iowa said that the union would prefer to use strikes to pressure the company to recognize its union.) 

“There are many platforms to seek recognition, there are many platforms for workers to do concerted activities,” Korgan says. ?“Truth be told, that [NLRB] process is where corporate America wants organizing to be, and that’s how they want it to be defined. Because they clearly have more of an advantage there than they do in other spaces.”

The recognition that Amazon has become so powerful that allowing it to remain non-union is not a viable option seems to have finally become conventional wisdom within organized labor. It is safe to assume that the Teamsters are only one of several major unions planning ways to organize their own slice of the company. The union campaign in Alabama, where the votes will be counted at the end of this month, will likely be only the first step down a long and contentious road that will last for years. 

“No matter what happens in Bessemer,” Korgan says, ?“it doesn’t change the trajectory of anything that’s going on.” 

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on March 17, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Hamilton Nolan is a labor reporter for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writing about labor and politics for Gawker, Splinter, The Guardian, and elsewhere.


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Union organizing Amazon workers emphatically disavows social media calls for boycott

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Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, are still voting on whether to join a union, in a mail vote that ends March 29. The company’s ongoing harassment campaign aimed at defeating the organizing effort has many workers looking forward to that date, when the barrage will end—much as Republican negative campaigning is aimed at turning people against politics and good governance.

This week, the workers and organizers have had to contend with another problem: a viral “boycott Amazon” campaign claiming to be in support of the workers. Many, many people shared the call to boycott the company for the week of March 7 to 13 in good faith—but it didn’t come from and wasn’t supported by the union or the workers, and it was not helpful.

After President Biden’s message of support for workers to vote free from interference, an anti-union worker at a media event organized by Amazon told reporters, “I don’t need someone from the outside coming in and saying this or that.” Workers on the fence about unionizing may also fear that a boycott will cost them their jobs, and that fear may make them more open to management messages that a union will hurt the company and its ability to create jobs. “One of Amazon’s talking points is that a union will hurt the business/lose jobs,” labor journalist Kim Kelly tweeted. “A boycott hands the boss ammunition.”

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union has disavowed the boycott call, saying the union had nothing to do with it—“The union has not called for nor endorses a boycott at Amazon”—and indeed, if you looked at both the RWDSU’s social media and that of the Bessemer Amazon union prior to the issue going viral, neither had said a word about a boycott. Having outsiders intervene in an organizing effort not by being responsive to the workers and the union can be directly harmful to the workers’ cause. So where did this come from?

The call to boycott originated with the “Leftist Unification Party,” which still has less than 100 followers on Twitter, having emerged on social media within the last few months. Slate’s Aaron Mak talked to the group’s “administrative director” and “head strategist”—lofty titles for what they told him was a six-person volunteer group. Administrative director Angie told him “This is my first time with any sort of leadership position—zero experience” after activist experience consisting mostly of canvassing and protesting.

Angie and head strategist Cassidy told Mak they intentionally hadn’t checked in with the union or workers about whether their boycott effort would be welcome because to do so would be an illegal secondary boycott. That’s not what a secondary boycott is. Strikewave’s C.M. Lewis explained, “A prohibited secondary boycott would be coercing a businesses to pull their merchandise from the Amazon marketplace, not telling consumers to not buy directly from the retailer.” When Mak challenged Angie and Cassidy on that, they stuck to their story about not consulting the union because it would be illegal to do so. On Twitter, they’ve also proudly proclaimed their lack of concern for the union’s preferences on this.

So maybe the six members of the Leftist Unification Party are just idiots who don’t know what they’re doing and got belligerent when people who do know something about organizing challenged them. (Sample tweet.) Or maybe the many questions people asked about exactly why and how a boycott call coming from a group that just appeared out of nowhere went viral at a time very convenient to Amazon are worth asking.

Unfortunately, there’s another part of the puzzle: The LUP’s boycott call was picked up and amplified, largely unattributed, by UComm, which made remarkable use of passive voice: “To support Amazon workers and let the company know that we do not approve of their union-busting tactics, a one-week boycott of the company has been planned. From Sunday, March 7th to Saturday, March 13th, everyone is being asked to not use Amazon or Amazon Prime and do not stream videos using the Amazon Prime video service.”

Planned by whom? Everyone is being asked by whom? That was never specified, just dropped in the middle of a piece reporting on the union effort. The inspiration, though, was the Leftist Unification Party. UComm is not a mysterious group like the Leftist Unification Party. It’s a communications consulting firm that works for unions and really should have known better, but, with more than 24,000 Twitter followers and more than 7,000 Facebook followers, it dramatically amplified the boycott push.

As one labor organizer tweeted, “the boycott call is, in the very best case, coming from amiable clowns and more likely coming from clout-chasers.” It took advantage of the good intentions of many people, though—and we need to take it as an opportunity for education. 

First off, when you’re dealing with an active union organizing effort, always take your cues from the workers and their union. The point of organizing is building worker power, and coming in from the outside saying you know better is detrimental to that even when it doesn’t also feed into the boss’s talking points.

Related, do your homework. The first thing I did when I saw people sharing the boycott call was look at the RWDSU and BAmazonUnion Twitter feeds. They said nothing about a boycott, ergo I knew there was no real boycott effort. 

What do I mean by “real”? The term “boycott” gets thrown around a lot, and it’s gotten cheapened as a result. Real boycotts, boycotts that are going to be effective, take work. It’s true that social media, with the potential for virality, has somewhat changed the equation—sometimes a brand will see a mass of negative attention and change course on something, like apologizing for an offensive ad or pulling back from a new practice. But a company as big as Amazon is not going to change its entire business model because of a social media boycott call. Boycotts take organization, planning, and clarity. They usually take institutional support, whether from unions or churches or major advocacy groups. They take follow-through—what do you do if the boycott succeeds? How do you make sure the win holds up, and, equally, how do you let your supporters know it’s time to stop boycotting?

There are lots of reasons to boycott—from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the Nestle infant formula boycott—and a range of groups can organize them. But organizing is a key principle here. Educating people about why they should boycott and what success would look like. Viral hashtags are great, but if the goal is substantial change in the real world, they have to be backed up by something.

This week’s social media Amazon “boycott” is an unfortunate but excellent case study in the principles of listening to workers and not mistaking social media for real life. If the Amazon union effort fails, the company’s constant harassment of workers is obviously the first and by far the most important factor. But if it fails by a razor-thin margin … we’ll always have to wonder if this helped tip the balance.

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on March 10, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a contributing editor since December 2006. Clawson has been full-time staff since 2011, and is currently assistant managing editor at the Daily Kos.


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Danny Glover Sees Centuries of Struggle in the Amazon Union Drive

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This interview originally appeared on The Real News Network.

One of the most historic union votes of our era is underway right now: 5,800workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, are currently voting on whether or not to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. If the union vote is successful, workers at the Bessemer facility will become the first unionized Amazon workforce in the United States. After the National Labor Relations Board dismissed Amazon’s motions to delay the union vote, ballots were sent to workers in early February, and the vote counting will begin on March 29.

On Feb. 22, 2021, world-renowned actor, activist, and Real News Network board member Danny Glover came to Bessemer to show support for Amazon workers and their struggle to form a union. TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez drove 14 hours from Baltimore to Bessemer to sit down with Glover and talk about why this vote is so significant and how Amazon workers in Bessemer, the vast majority of whom are Black, are part of a long tradition of labor struggle in the South.

The Real News Network will bring you more in-depth coverage of the historic union vote in Bessemer throughout the month of March. Keep checking TRNN for updates and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube and podcastchannels for upcoming installments!

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity. 

Maximillian Alvarez, TRNN Editor-in-Chief: Welcome, everyone, to this special production of The Real News Network. My name is Maximillian Alvarez, I’m the Editor-in-Chief here at The Real News, and it’s great to have you all with us.

At this very moment, one of the most historic union drives of our era is taking place in Bessemer, Alabama. Bessemer is a Southwestern suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, with a population of just under 27,000, the majority of whom are Black or African-American. Bessemer is also home to a massive Amazon fulfillment center, which opened last March, making the e?commerce giant the largest employer in Bessemer. After experiencing firsthand the breakneck workloads and top-down surveillance that Amazon’s fulfillment centers have become known for, as well as a reported lack of transparency and accountability from management, a group of workers at the Bessemer facility began the long, arduous process of organizing, with the hope of joining the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.

Amazon has pulled out all the stops to discourage workers in Bessemer from voting to join the union, even bringing in outside consultants who are being paid $3,200 per day, per consultant to guide the company’s union busting efforts. Workers have reported receiving regular anti-union texts and emailsfrom Amazon, on top of being subjected to anti-union messages in company bathrooms and ?“information sessions.” On top of that, Amazon also filed a set of motions with the National Labor Relations Board in an attempt to delay the union vote, including a motion that would have prevented workers from being able to mail in their ballots while the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. After the NLRB eventually struck down those motions, ballots were sent out to Amazon workers. The vote counting officially began on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, and will continue through March 29.

There have been a number of attempts to unionize Amazon workers in the United States, but so far, none of them have achieved that ultimate goal. But workers and organizers on the ground have high hopes that this drive in Bessemer will be different, and that it will spark more successful union drives at Amazon facilities around the country. And make no mistake, workers unionizing at Amazon affects all of us. With so many fearing the hazards of trips to brick-and-mortar stores over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a boon to Amazon’s e?commerce model. While millions lost their jobs, homes, and healthcare, Jeff Bezos, the founder and current CEO of Amazon, reportedly increased his wealth by nearly $70 billion in 2020 alone. Amazon has become an international behemoth, and it has more power and influence over our lives than most entities. And yet, the general population has virtually no say over what Amazon does and how it does it. If Amazon workers were unionized, that could change.

On Feb. 22, 2021, world-renowned actor, activist, and Real News Network board member Danny Glover came down to Bessemer to show support for the roughly 5,800 fulfillment center workers who are currently voting on whether or not to unionize. I got in my car and drove 14 hours from Baltimore down to Bessemer to chat with Danny about why this union vote is so significant, and it’s my honor to share that interview with you now. And please, stay tuned for more of our extended coverage of the historic union drive in Bessemer through the month of March, including interviews with Amazon workers and union organizers on the ground. Coming to you right here on The Real News Network, let’s go… 

So, Danny, first of all, thank you so much for sitting down and chatting with me. I know how busy you are, and I know you devote a great deal of your time traveling across the globe to lend your powerful voice to freedom struggles around the world. So, in that vein, I wanted to start by asking: What brought you down here to Alabama? What was it about the workers’ struggle here that compelled you to come to Bessemer and show your support?

Danny Glover: Well, I think the first thing to say is that I was asked to come down. And I think it’s a very important moment, certainly, for workers?—?this challenge right here, with a company that [aside from Walmart] employs more people than any other company in the country, located here in the South, which is always considered to be a place where unions never fared well. And yet, we know there’s a history, particularly here in Alabama, around the miners and smelter workers’ in the ?’30s and their struggle for unionization?—?and, really, during the whole period of Jim Crow, particularly with the organizing of Black workers. Right here in Alabama, you had the cotton [mill workers’] strike in the ?’30s. So, there’s a history of resistance here to the oppressive conditions that people work under. And the South, of course, has its own history, one that carried the weight of the moral issue around slavery.

So, to be here at this particular moment is important. And part of my own history is in the South: My mother’s from the South, rural Georgia, and she found her way outside; she was able to go to college. She didn’t have to pick cotton in September, because she was going to school in September. And then, I come out of a union family, through the U.S. Postal Service?—?my parents came to the Postal Service in 1948. So, there are a lot of reasons why I would be here and, certainly, I’m here in the service of justice, workers’ justice. It seems to be one of my life’s purposes, outside of doing the work that I do on the stage and in front of a screen.

MA: I definitely want to ask more about that union connection to your family, but I wanted to follow up on something first. So, you touched on this a little already, but how do you see the struggle for workers’ rights and labor justice?—?how does that connect to the larger struggle for liberation and dignity?

DG: Well, I think that organized labor in the era of industrialization?—?since the industrial revolution (over the last 200 years or so)?—?has fought for the most fundamental rights, human rights, all over this country and within the world itself. And that fight brings a kind of class consciousness, as well, which is an understanding that one of the elements that is essential to capital (or money) and the ways it expands itself is: How do you control labor? How do you undermine labor? How do you de-radicalize labor? And when you’re fighting for the basic means of paying rent or putting food on the table, those are real things.

We’re talking about a country where the majority of the population lives in the urban areas and often crowded areas (and it’s like that around the world, too). Whether through forced migrations and enclosure laws, or through voluntary migrations to find work and everything else, this process of industrialization drove people to the city and drove them right into the places where they had to sell their labor in order to survive. And I think that is what we are dealing with?—?it’s the same now. No matter how much technology we have, no matter how much we dismiss the whole idea of unions, the point is that human beings sell their bodies, sell themselves for a price, in order to survive. They don’t grow their own food, they have to purchase their food. So, all these intricate relationships are surrounded by systems that are often unjust, and you have to place some sort of context or place some sort of structure around it to make sure that the benefits of what they produce are shared in some way. I’m babbling right now, to some extent, but you see how this sets the picture for this particular moment… 

And so, from the robber barons of the 19th century (the latter part of the 19thcentury) to now, their objective was always the same thing: How do we control labor? How do we now exploit labor? Not just control, exploit it, because their objective is exploitation. How does that added value that they bring go to them so less of it goes to the working force, the people who create the value? Because they (the workers) create the value.

And that’s why we’re here right now?—?it’s that simple. We have the [second] largest employer in this country?—?certainly the largest employer in this area now?—?and there are 5,800 workers here who have an opportunity to say, ?“We want some sort of safeguards for ourselves. We want to be in a position where we set out a certain standard, which we believe is important for us to be able to negotiate around our wages, benefits, and working conditions.” Right now, this large company, Amazon, controls all of that. They control the working conditions the workers work under, the wages that they’re paid, and whatever benefits that they may accrue without any say from the workers themselves. And the best structure for them to have a say in their lives is unionization. That was the case 200 years ago, and it remains the same now, as well.

MA: You mentioned how you have your own roots in the South, and how your family was a union family… So, let’s talk about the significance of this union vote happening here in the deep South, in Bessemer. Because I think that, to some people who aren’t in the South, to some people who are watching what’s happening here from the outside, it seems like this union drive came out of nowhere, right? Because they’re not familiar with the labor history here. And I mean, let’s be honest, we don’t really get a good labor history education in most parts of the country. So, could you talk about how this union vote connects to a longer tradition and history of labor struggle in the South?

DG: Well, it certainly has that tradition. I mean, you talk about Alabama… Alabama had major deposits of iron ore. During the Civil War, I believe that the center for where the armaments that the South made was in Selma, Alabama. So, they had the material. And that’s in the latter part of the wonderful book ?“Hammer and Hoe,” which Robin D.G. Kelley wrote about the labor history in the South, the struggle of formerly enslaved Africans here post-Civil War, post-Reconstruction, and during the period of Jim Crow. The purpose was always to find various ways to diminish their capacity. And so, there is a rich history of labor struggle around here. As I told workers here, ?“You’re part of a continuum; you’re part of an ongoing struggle that began long before you. And, certainly, that struggle has led you to where you are today in your own efforts to build solidarity and in your own demands to build better working conditions for workers.”

Now, economically, since 85% of the Amazon workers in Bessemer are Black, unionization elevates your standard of living and diminishes the wealth gap. We can talk about the wealth gap in different contexts, but the point is that unionization has been a platform to raise people from low wages to the middle-class. And that is what we’re talking about here. We know the dynamics of poverty within Alabama and how they affect those who are the most underserved, and we know that all the other kinds of disparities that we have in our society (healthcare disparity, etc.)?—?those are a part of this region, too. Unionization is a way of mobilizing, not just under the rubric of controlling what happens in the workplace, but it’s a way of organizing the community, as well; it elevates the community’s sense of self-purpose in all facets. 

So, when we’re talking about unionization, we’re talking about other aspects, as well. Unionization creates citizens, it provides a platform for citizens to take action. And that is the case here, no matter if… You know, we can talk about whether the Mayor or the City Council of Bessemer are Black and everything else. They function on another level… But unions function in ways that strengthen the community itself.

MA: And speaking of that, how has it been when you’ve talked to the workers themselves in Bessemer and the union organizers here at the RWDSU? What have you been hearing from them when you talk to them about this union vote and about their working conditions at Amazon?

DG: When I spoke to workers (and we spoke with groups of workers yesterday), I mean… it’s unbelievable, some of the hardships that they have, the difficult ways in which they have to maneuver around. There’s surveillance on these workers in Amazon unlike any other kind of systems of surveillance on workers. They’re probably the most watched workers?—?every single detail of their work is being watched. And, in some ways, the demands placed on them to get their workload out… it’s basically unattainable. The periods that they have for breaks, for finding a restroom, the accommodations there, the availability of restrooms?—?all those different things are a concern. And here’s the thing: They have no control at all. Here’s a modern country where workers have no control and no say in what happens in the workplace, and it’s all left to the discretion of the managers themselves. This system has used technology in ways that we haven’t seen before (in creating Amazon’s wealth and business model, and in creating the working conditions around that model, as well). 

I mean, some of the stories have been quite saddening. And these people come here to work. They apply for jobs to work, and they give what they have to work. But some of the conditions that they work under, whether it’s inadequate breaks, or a feeling that you’re being watched, or being treated often in inappropriate ways… Amazon controls that. They control your paycheck and they control so many different things that workers have no say in.

MA: For folks out there who are listening to this, it’s important to convey that this isn’t just another union drive, right? And that’s not to say that any union drive, no matter how small, isn’t important. But as you said, Danny, Amazon is… I mean, it’s an international behemoth. And with the COVID-19pandemic, the power of Amazon has only increased, the influence of Amazon has only gotten stronger. And we are all just basically following where it leads right now. And I think that we should all be thinking long and hard about where it’s leading us to. So, I guess, in that vein, could you talk a bit more about where Amazon as a company is going and why it’s so important for workers to have more of a say in that direction?

DG: First of all, Amazon is a global company, and certainly, it deals with unions in other places. There are places in Europe where they have a relationship with unions. So, the question is always: Why not here, in its home base? Why are they so resistant to having a union in Amazon’s home base? Why are they using every device available to them to dis-encourage workers from joining the union, or voting to have a union? So, it’s significant from the vantage point that it sets the tone, I think, for all workers. 

When we talk about winning battles… the battles that workers win aren’t permanent?—?because they’re always struggling under different dynamics, new dynamics arise outside the workplace, within the workplace. When you have the unions, you’re empowering the worker. And that’s the most important thing that I think we have to say: We’re empowering workers. We’re empowering the community itself. Amazon… where are they going to go? They came to Bessemer, a place where, certainly, work has declined. Because of technology and automation, work has become unavailable. Good-paying jobs have become unavailable here for many reasons. Some of the work that would have happened here may have been outsourced to another country. But in advanced countries, like in Europe, where there are strong unions, Amazon deals with those unions. They have to deal with these unions in ways that they may feel uncomfortable with, but at the same time it gives workers power. And as I said before, it also gives the community power.

MA: And, Danny, what strikes me as a real, I don’t know, bizarre phenomenon in the mind of the American worker… is that, so often, we don’t feel like it is our right to have a say in our working conditions. Right? We feel like we’re asking too much, even though we spend most of our lives at work. Why do you think that is?

DG: Well, I think that there’s something about… I remember watching something long ago, which said (and this was in the developed world): The moment that people begin to structure their lives around their own independence and self-sufficiency, then they become dangerous, to some extent. Because they’re empowering themselves. 

What happens is that power, those people who dictate our lives, shape our lives, shape what we think all the time… what they do, what that power does, is they only provide what they think you need, not what you actually need. A better way to say that is that power diminishes those expectations to the point where… I missed my thought. [Laughs]… But the point is: Sometimes you gotta catch yourself in those moments where you can think philosophically about what is really happening here. And what power does is essentially attempts to give us what they want to give us, not what we need.

MA: So, zooming out, and thinking about everyone who’s listening to this right now, everyone who has their eyes on Bessemer, but especially all the folks who are just now learning about the struggle here… How would you convey to people that this is something that they should care about? How can we learn to see struggles like the one happening in Bessemer as part of our common struggle for a better world? And how would you encourage people to get involved in that struggle like you have?

DG: Philosophically, there are a lot of reasons why I think we should get involved in making a better world. We can talk about it from the side of redistributing resources. Amazon has fared very well. I think its value has doubled or tripled during the pandemic?—?I’m not sure what the numbers are. But apart from that… I don’t know how to tell people, really. Because we all end up selling our labor some way, and most people are, unfortunately, in a position where they themselves need and would want more control over what happens in their workplace, or what happens in terms of their… [Pause] I don’t know what to say.

One of the things, Max, is that I come down here out of passion for the work itself. What I’ve always felt from the beginning is that, for everything I do, if I’m there, it’s because I care. I’m not there for any other reason. If I’m asked to come here, it’s because I care about the issue itself, and the issue is important to me. And I think it takes that from all of us?—?to say that this is important to us. This struggle has significance for all of us who work, for all of us who feel discriminated against, for all of those who feel powerless at points in time. (And we already feel powerless because of COVID-19 and all the restrictions and hardships it has imposed on our lives.)

So, I just think that this… after the 20th century fights for labor, fighting for rights, fighting for equality (whether it’s with women, whether it’s with minorities, etc)?—?at any point in time, the struggle for access and the struggle for a world that works for all of us is what we need to talk about. And unionization and the struggle here in Bessemer is important because it has the possibility of not only changing the lives of these workers here, but also of providing the courage to foster other battles and other struggles.

MA: Thank you all so much for listening to this special production of The Real News Network. We’ve got lots more coverage of the historic union vote at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama coming your way. So, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, visit our website, subscribe to our YouTube and podcast channels, and check out all the great content that we produce on a weekly basis. And lastly, if you really want to support the work that we’re doing, then please consider making a monthly donation at the?re?al?news?.com/?s?u?pport. That’s the?re?al?news?.com/?s?u?pport.

The Real News Network is a nonprofit, viewer-supported center for digital media, dedicated to telling the stories that matter and lifting up the voices and struggles that so often go ignored by mainstream media. We make media for the people, not corporate advertisers, and so we cannot do this work without you. So, thank you so much for your support, and thank you for listening. This is Maximillian Alvarez from The Real News Network, sending love and solidarity from Baltimore.

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on March 11, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Maximillian Alvarez is a writer and editor based in Baltimore and the host of Working People, ?“a podcast by, for, and about the working class today.” His work has been featured in venues like In These Times, The Nation, The Baffler, Current Affairs, and The New Republic.


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There Are No Make or Break Moments In a Movement

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The Amazon union drive in Alabama, we are told, is a ?“once-in-a-generation opportunity,” a battle which must be won now lest it slip through our grasp forever. That is not true at all. If the workers at that Amazon warehouse win their historic union, it will be a signal that the labor movement should unleash a broad campaign of similar organizing drives at more and more warehouses across the country. And if they lose? Same thing. 

The human mind is naturally wired to make us feel that we are, at all times, the stars (or, at least, best supporting actors) of a movie called ?“HISTORY,” and that what is happening at this very moment is both the culmination of, and the launching point for, all that has come before or since. We tend to recoil at the idea that we are but tiny insects borne along on mighty winds that were blowing long before we were here, and that will continue long after we are gone, and that the totality of our experience may be just a momentary glimpse of the sun before we are plunged once again into darkness. To the extent that these questions are philosophical or even spiritual?—?who cares? But when it comes to political action, well, these sorts of perceptions can really matter.

It is always tempting to tell people that the particular fight we are in today is a make-or-break one?—?that if we win this battle, total victory is ours, and if we lose it, all is lost, so buckle down and focus. But it is almost never true. You may have noticed that every single presidential election of your lifetime has been declared to be ?“The most important presidential election of our lifetime,” a historic appellation that is inevitably superseded by the next presidential election. Electoral politics, at least, has the excuse that it is composed of an endless series of regularly scheduled recurring events, only one of which is happening at any given time. But when we discuss movements—whether social justice movements pushing a specific cause, or the labor movement, pushing for general worker uplift?—?we are talking not about a series of things, but an ongoing process, which will never end until humans evolve into some higher form of being with no problems. Just as sharks die if they stop swimming, movements always have to keep moving. Preferably forward.

The temptation to see any given fight as a ?“make or break” moment has a steep downside. For one thing, it implies that we’ll have it made if we win; for another, it implies that we’ll be broken if we lose. Neither is true. The Amazon union drive is a case in point. It’s easy to see why we would play up something like this as an existential battle: it’s important! It is the single most important union drive of the past several years at least, and unionizing Amazon is an absolutely vital goal for the entire labor movement, to prevent millions more of us from being transformed into heavily monitored warehouse workers in order to further enrich Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world. Convincing everyone that this is a chance that will not come along again has a strong motivational effect. But if it were actually true, it would be awful. If this union drive succeeds, about 6,000 Amazon workers will have a union?—?out of a million. Changing the practices of this monster company will require organizing ten times this number, and then ten times that again. The amount of work necessary to achieve the goal we are aiming for will make Bessemer look like a light warmup. A win just means that we have a formula for unionizing a warehouse that is proven to work. A loss just means that we have a formula that doesn’t work, that should be improved before the union world moves on to the next warehouse, and then the next. Events may succeed or fail, but movements just adapt and keep moving on. 

The labor movement is unfortunately susceptible to this counterproductive cycle of hyping itself up for a big campaign, and then losing and wallowing in despair, or winning and assuming that we can rest now. We can never rest! (I mean, any of us can rest when we get burned out, but there should be other people to take our place in the meantime?—?another great quality of strong movements is that they don’t depend on a single leader whose absence causes them to collapse.) You can discern this tendency in the union establishment’s all-or-nothing rhetoric right now about the PRO Act, a very good labor law reform bill that has zero chance of making it through the Senate as long as the filibuster exists. It is very easy to imagine unions spending the next two years maniacally focused on passing this bill to the exclusion of all else, only to melt into a puddle of regret when Republicans win the next midterms and the bill has still not been passed. Instead of falling into this trap, the labor movement needs to think like a movement: There are millions of workers to organize and thousands of unions to build every hour of every day in every state. None of them may individually make the splash of a brand-name campaign or a revolutionary bill, but collectively, they are the bulk of the substance that makes the movement stronger. 

Yeah, get hype for the Amazon union. Make those calls for the PRO Act. Just remember that this is a process, not a championship game to be won. This is a thing that was going on before we got here, that we check into for a while to do our part, and that will continue long after we are all dead and gone. Because the second we stop working, the thing that the movement was built to overcome starts creeping back into our world. Even if we get our asses kicked today, be sure to come back tomorrow. Movements only die when they stop trying. 

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on March 8, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Hamilton Nolan is a labor reporter for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writing about labor and politics for Gawker, Splinter, The Guardian, and elsewhere.


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An Alabama Amazon Worker’s Case for Unionization

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At this very moment, one of the most historic union drives of our era is taking place at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama. Around 5,800workers at the facility, the majority of whom are Black, are currently voting on whether or not to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU). If they are successful, the workers in Bessemer would become the first unionized Amazon workforce in the United States, and Amazon is pulling out all the stops to keep that from happening. We got to sit down with Jennifer Bates, one of the fulfillment center workers in Bessemer, to talk about her working conditions and about why this union vote is so important.

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on March 4, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Maximillian Alvarez is a writer and editor based in Baltimore and the host of Working People, ?“a podcast by, for, and about the working class today.” His work has been featured in venues like In These Times, The Nation, The Baffler, Current Affairs, and The New Republic.


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Biden backs right of Amazon workers to attempt to organize

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President Joe Biden on Sunday offered his support for organizing efforts by Amazon workers in Alabama, though he stopped just short of endorsing the formation of a union.

“Workers in Alabama — and all across America — are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace. It’s a vitally important choice — one that should be made without intimidation or threats by employers,” the president tweeted. “Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union.”

His tweet was accompanied by a video in which Biden addressed the workers involved. He told them that the choice whether to organize was their choice exclusively, and that there should be “no coercion” by the company.

“I have long said America wasn’t built by Wall Street,” the president began. “It was built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class.”

Biden has long cultivated an image as a friend of organized labor but had previously largely steered clear of the efforts to organize Amazon’s workers at a location in Bessemer, Ala. Some 6,000 workers at the Alabama facility have been voting whether to organize.

“If we don’t have the leader of the free world speaking up and saying, ‘I’ve got these workers’ backs, so that they can actually freely choose their union,’ … We’re leaving them stranded,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA told POLITICO in an interview.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on February 28, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: David Cohen is Senior Editor at Politico. He joined POLITICO in 2010 after 25 years in the news business, including extended stints at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Nando.net (now McClatchy Interactive) and The Record of Hackensack (N.J.). He is also the author of “Rugged and Enduring: The Eagles, The Browns and 5 Years of Football,” published in 2001.


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‘Union guy’ Joe Biden keeps his distance from Amazon union fight

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When Joe Biden was running for president, he promised union members that he would be the “best friend labor has ever had in the White House.”

Now in office, Biden is keeping his distance from the biggest union fight of his early presidency, one involving a powerful company that gave to his inauguration and has pledged to help his administration fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The White House on Wednesday declined to directly endorse the union election at the e-commerce giant Amazon’s Alabama warehouse, telling POLITICO that, It’s the president’s position — and the policy of the U.S. government — to encourage union organizing and collective bargaining.

A Biden spokeswoman stressed that it’s also White House policy not to comment on the merits of specific cases that are currently before, or likely to be before, the National Labor Relations Board, which adjudicates unionization campaigns.

“President Biden has urged employers not to run anti-union campaigns or interfere with organizing and bargaining, and has called for holding employers accountable and increasing penalties when they do,” the spokeswoman said.

The comments from the White House underscore the delicate political dynamics that exist around the election in Alabama — an election that could result in Amazon’s first unionized factory in America. And they quickly drew a rebuke from labor advocates who still haven’t forgotten about the time former President Barack Obama rebuffed calls to join thousands of public workers protesting against a GOP-led state law that restricted state employees’ ability to unionize, despite previously pledging to walk the picket line on behalf of labor.

“If we don’t have the leader of the free world speaking up and saying, I’ve got these workers’ backs, so that they can actually freely choose their union … We’re leaving them stranded,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA told POLITICO in an interview. “I mean this is a real opportunity for the President to say, I mean what I say… when I put forward the ideals that I have in my labor platform.”

Biden’s labor platform includes passing an historic overhaul of federal labor law that would broadly expand workers’ ability to form unions. And so far the new president has appeared to keep his promises to fight for collective bargaining rights. Last month, Biden fired the labor board’s Trump-appointed general counsel and his replacement, the first time in more than 70 years a president has exercised that power over the agency.

The situation in Alabama presents a different set of challenges, however. The factory workers, Nelson added, are “taking on incredible power, and they need to know that they’ve got the president of the United States who has their backs and they’re going to have a fair chance.”

Some 6,000 full-time and part-time factory workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama fulfillment center have been voting throughout February on whether to join The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

If workers vote in favor of union representation, it would be a massive win for organized labor against a company that has been largely hostile to unionization efforts in the past. In recent days, organized labor’s allies in Washington have thrown their weight behind the union drive, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), former state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Ga.), as well as actor Danny Glover, releasing a video in support of the election on Wednesday.

“I think it’s important for the administration to demonstrate during this campaign its support for unionization,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, said in a published interview earlier this week. Appelbaum declined requests to speak for this story, and the RWDSU instead directed POLITICO to his statement specifying that the Alabama election “is a great opportunity for the administration to show working people what’s important to them.”

Amazon has reportedly encouraged workers to vote “no” in the election, including posting flyers in bathroom stalls at the warehouse. The company also sought to delay the Alabama warehouse election, and requested that the vote take place in person, rather than by mail, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company has a fair bit of political heft in Washington, D.C. It was one of many that contributed to the president’s inaugural ceremonies, and it employs former top Biden and Obama White House spokesman Jay Carney, who bundled money for Biden’s election. On the day that Biden was sworn into office, Amazon sent a letter to him offering its help with Covid vaccine distribution.


Amazon spokesperson Heather Knox declined to comment on recent calls for President Biden to weigh in on the union vote.

“We don’t believe the RWDSU represents the majority of our employees’ views,” Knox told POLITICO. “Our employees choose to work at Amazon because we offer some of the best jobs available everywhere we hire, and we encourage anyone to compare our total compensation package, health benefits, and workplace environment to any other company with similar jobs.”

During the campaign, Biden took aim at companies like Amazon for not paying corporate taxes, riffing on the disparity on the trail and in tweets. “I have nothing against Amazon, but no company pulling in billions of dollars of profits should pay a lower tax rate than firefighters and teachers,” he said at one point during the primary. “We need to reward work, not just wealth.”

He also ran for president as an unapologetic champion of unions, often citing the dwindling number of unionized workers as the primary reason for the shrinking of America’s middle class. Shortly after his election, Biden relayed that he had explicitly told corporate leaders that he was “a union guy.”

“They just nodded,” he said. “They understand. It’s not anti-business. It’s about economic growth.”

This blog originally appeared at Politico on February 24, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter.


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