Amazon Workers Reject Unionization in Alabama

Posted by Arianna Weling.

Last Friday on April 9th, it was revealed that the Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama rejected the unionization bid. Alabama is currently one of twenty-seven “right-to-work” states in which wokers are not legally required to pay dues to the unions that represent them. The current case had been an ongoing battle for months and ultimately led to almost a 2-1 result of rejecting the union proposal. Of the 3,117 votes casted, about 1,800 warehouse voters rejected the union proposal, where as only about 730 workers voted in favor of it, as per the National Labor Relations Board. Amazon, which is currently one of the largest private employers in the United States has managed to avoid enforcements of unions for over two decades.”The vote Friday, in which the company won over workers at its year-old Bessemer, Ala., warehouse by more than a 2-to-1 margin, was a massive blow for labor organizers who saw the facility — and Amazon broadly — as ripe for organizing,” (Greene, De Vynck 2021). Such an avoidance of the unionization will certainly grant Amazon the power and flexibility or cut workers when they please if there is any contention.

The aftermath of this result is certainly one that setbacks politicians, such as Senator Bernie Sanders and President Biden who advocated for unionization. Since then, there have been videos surfacing in which Sanders stated, “The history of struggle is that you don’t always win the first time out…you may have to come back and do it again,” (Greene, De Vynck 2021). As for the President of AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, he assured that he and his people are not going anywhere and the fight will continue. The union that actively represented the Bessemer, Alabama workers, also known as the Retail Warehouse and Department Store Union has accused Amazon of using scare tactics to intimidate workers. Such intimidation may have swayed voters and influenced the result. Therefore, the union strives to challenge this results in attempts to overturn them and force unionization.

Amazon, however, refuted such claims as Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener stated: “These fabrications are tiresome but expected…you’re going to hear a lot of untruths from the union now because they have to explain the lopsided result and their answer can’t be Amazon pays more than $15 an hour, offers health care from day one, up to 20 weeks of parental leave, and a safe, clean work environment in state-of-the-art fulfillment centers,” (Greene, De Vynck 2021). In the months long battle, Amazon even set up an anti-union website in order to discourage workers. The website, “DoItWithoutDues,” emphasized the cons of unionization. Not only did they establish a website to discourage unionization, but also head mandatory meetings for workers called “captive-audience sessions” to advocate for anti-unionization.

Since the decision, other workers at other Amazon facilities have began considering and acting on organizing their own efforts for unionization. More than 1,000 workers have contact the Retail Warehouse and Department Store Union in attempts to launch campaigns at their own Amazon facilities (Greene, De Vynck 2021). Given the RWDSU is planning to contest the results and argues that the voters were influenced, the decision may be overturned and legal challenges may arise.

Personally, I see the pros and cons of unionization, therefore, the decision is difficult. Of course, unionization will ensure that employees receive higher pay and benefits; however, issues, such as lack of individuality and difficulty to fire workers may be discouraging. From an outsider’s point-of-view, it seems that unionization will be incredibly beneficial. Given Amazon rarely (if ever) ranks within the top twenty-five companies with happiest workers, it seems that they could use some improvements. I think Amazon’s choice to show workers the downfalls of unions and establishing that website may have been misleading. Because of that, I feel that another vote should be considered, seeing that since Amazon had some influence in the decision publically, privately, it may had been more as well.

Arianna is majoring in marketing and English at Seton Hall University, Class of 2023.