The Fight to Unionize Amazon Has Only Just Begun

Following a relentless anti-union campaign waged by Amazon, workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse have voted against unionizing with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). It was the first election of its size at an Amazon warehouse in the United States. People’s Party organizers across the country were proud to organize solidarity events and raise funds to support the Bessemer workers and allies at the Southern Workers Assembly. 

The RWDSU says it will challenge the results before the National Labor Relations Board for what union president Stuart Appelebaum called Amazon’s “illegal and egregious behavior.” 

RWDSU spokesperson Chelsea Connor said part of the alleged behavior involves Amazon’s placement of a USPS mailbox on the grounds of the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse at the center of the vote. Some workers have said they were intimidated by the installation of the mailbox, as well as the messages from Amazon to use it, and believe that the company wanted to monitor who voted. The Washington Post reported earlier on Thursday that Amazon officials pressed the USPS to install the mailbox, after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) denied the company’s request to place a ballot drop box on the property.

Omar Fernandez, president of the American Postal Workers Union of Vermont, executive council member of the AFL-CIO of Vermont, and the coordinator of Labor for a People’s Party, said that any collusion between Amazon and the USPS would be highly illegal. He encouraged Amazon workers in Alabama and across the country to keep organizing. He said: “If we want change, we must stand united or get torn to pieces. Don’t let this keep you from succeeding. If you want change, we must do it together!” 

According to Payday labor reporter Mike Elk, the initial union enthusiasm was dismantled by a sophisticated anti-union campaign by Amazon that combined threats of job loss with promises of improvement if workers rejected the union. Many workers in interviews that voted against the union admitted that they knew little about Amazon. This allowed the company to use anti-union meetings to generate fear over the change that a union would bring, telling workers that their wages may decrease under a contract or that their facility may close.

At the beginning of the 20th century, union drives in the automotive and steel sectors were likewise initially defeated by big corporations before succeeding. The erosion of strong labor laws under the Democratic and Republican parties has pushed unionization from 35 percent in the 1950s to 10 percent today, with private sector unionization at only 6 percent. The People’s Party will repeal right to work laws and make it easier for workers to form a union.

Inspired by the union drive in Bessemer, Amazon workers at a Chicago warehouse and elsewhere are already organizing. Chris Smalls, Founder of The Congress of Essential Workers and People’s Party Advisory Council member, stated on social media that, “other locations have already started organizing Amazon workers.”

The workers at these facilities understand that billionaire owners like Jeff Bezos will never represent their interests. Bessemer may not be getting a union, but the workers who dared to defy Amazon in a majority Black community, under the weight of Alabama’s anti-union laws, have lit a fire that has spread across the country and cannot be contained. We will unionize Amazon. 

The People’s Party salutes the workers and allies who organized this courageous union drive. We look forward to the next steps. 

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