Categories: U.S. and Canada

NLRB ruling an organizing tool for Amazon union drive

Amazon’s vicious union busting has come under widespread scrutiny by the world’s working class — and even by some elements of the ruling class. 

The National Labor Relations Board, created in 1935 to regulate the sharp battles between labor and capital, has ordered a new election at the Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon warehouse. In April the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union lost a representation election there by a wide margin; dozens of courageous Bessemer workers came forth and testified before the NLRB about Amazon’s campaign of fear, lies and intimidation.

The latest NLRB ruling against Amazon, issued Dec. 22, 2021, will have a more far-reaching impact than the order specific to Bessemer. The company must notify every one of the 750,000 Amazon workers in the U.S. — by email, on its A to Z employee app and with posters at every job site — that a rule used to limit union organizing on its premises is no longer in effect. The posters must stay up at least 60 days. 

The notices state: “We will not tell you that you cannot be on our property, or that you need to leave our property 15 minutes after the end of your shift, or threaten you with discipline or that we will call the police when you are exercising your right to engage in union or protected concerted activities by talking to your co-workers in exterior nonwork areas during nonwork hours.”

Pro-union workers in Chicago and New York City had filed complaints when they were barred from the premises 15 minutes before or after their shift. That was one of the few times they could talk to workers in the break areas. Amazon was knowingly violating the union advocates’ legal right to engage in “protected concerted activity.”

When we fight, we win

These rulings would have never been issued if Amazon workers themselves weren’t fighting back, including holding recent walkouts in New York City and Chicago against the company’s brutal working conditions. They know conditions won’t be changed without a union. The NLRB could go a lot further; for example, it could simply demand that Amazon recognize the Amazon Labor Union, whose supporters have been harassed, fired and arrested in Staten Island, New York.

But the ruling is a victory. Not only a victory, it’s a tool. Who’s going to monitor whether Amazon is violating the agreement? Unions and class-conscious organizers could organize around enforcing the ruling. 

Many forces are in the mix — ALU, Amazonians United Chicagoland, the Teamsters, RWDSU and others. The more they get to know each other and build a united front of solidarity against the epitome of capitalist exploitation — Amazon —  the greater the likelihood of the first union victory against this megamonopoly and the centibillionaire at its helm.

Support Amazon workers! Organize a demonstration in your area to wish Jeff Bezos an “unhappy birthday” Jan. 12 and/or honor the pro-labor legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the King holiday weekend. For more information, to find an event in your area or to post your event go to supportamazonworkers.org.

Martha Grevatt

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Martha Grevatt
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