Headlines screamed alarm Jan. 26 in capitalist business media like the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg: ‘Amazon Union Has Sufficient Signatures for New York Election!’
Yes, Amazon workers are accelerating the fight to be represented by a union and gain safety on the job, living wages, adequate health care, pandemic protection and more. The workers are going hand-to-hand against one of the biggest corporations in the world and its centibillionaire boss, Jeff Bezos.
In Staten Island, New York, and Bessemer, Alabama, workers at Amazon distribution centers are gearing up for union election votes authorized by the National Labor Relations Board.
In Staten Island, the independent Amazon Labor Union has demonstrated through card signing that there is now sufficient interest for an NLRB election, after having withdrawn their petition late in 2021 to build greater numbers. Besides giving a go-ahead for the election, the NLRB found that management at the Amazon warehouse has been illegally surveilling and threatening workers.
Union founder and leader Chris Smalls said in a widely quoted statement, “I think this one will definitely be the one to get over the hump and be the first union for Amazon.”
Meanwhile in Bessemer, a union re-vote is fast approaching for representation by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) . Ballots go out Feb. 4, and the re-vote tally is expected to begin March 28.
Nearly half of the 6,100 eligible voters are new to the Alabama warehouse since the last vote reported in April 2021, due to Amazon’s very high turnover. The NLRB ordered the re-vote after finding that Amazon improperly influenced the original vote. That’s bureaucratic language for the use of vicious, sneaky and intimidating union-busting tactics.
The Birmingham, Alabama, area, which Bessemer is part of, has a history of strong and often radical multinational unions dating back to the early 20th century. The North Alabama Labor Council is putting together door-to-door “house calls” with RWDSU members to convince Amazon workers to vote for the union.
A recent RWDSU video features Bessemer workers with handwritten signs about why they support the union. One wears a United Mine Workers “We Are One” class-war camouflage shirt. This coal miner’s sign says, “I am voting union because — I have seen the strength of solidarity.” (Full video here: tinyurl.com/2p8cxaht)
He is one of over 1,000 steadfast union coal miners in nearby Brookwood, Alabama, who are entering their eleventh month on strike against Warrior Met Coal and BlackRock venture capital. For these workers, like the striker in the video, a job at Amazon can be a way to make ends meet and to strengthen cross-union solidarity.
Union supporters in New York and Alabama are hoping to win the vote for union representation. But like the miners, Amazon workers may still have to withhold their labor power to get their rights.
Search Workers World to find extensive reporting on these struggles.