The historic victory of Amazon Labor Union workers in Staten Island, New York – announced on April 1 – is now news worldwide. Their win is being celebrated in the mainstream press as an astounding defeat of corporate Goliath by an unknown and puny David.
But no deity-enhanced hero beat the second biggest corporation in the world. The workers won through worker power, worker organizing, worker knowledge and ingenuity – and worker solidarity, solidarity, solidarity.
As Angelika Maldonado, chair of ALU’s Workers Committee, said: “Everybody was talking to everybody!” (Jacobin, April 2)
Before the victory, capitalist commentators dismissed ALU power and the company tried to discredit ALU President Chris Smalls with racist smears. Amazon poured anti-union lies like rat poison into the Staten Island warehouses. Roaming “consultants” intimidated workers and managers trumpeted fear in “captive audience meetings” of workers.
In 2021 Amazon spent around $4.3 million on companies and law firms who specialize in “union avoidance” – i.e., union-busting. Some consultants were paid $3,200 an hour! (engadget.com, April 1)
The average hourly wage for an Amazon warehouse worker or delivery driver is $15-16 an hour. (payscale.com)
The company’s millions were soundly defeated by tenacious, imaginative and unrelenting worker “deep organizing.” The union grew in strength as the 20-person Workers Committee identified and mentored others to become organizers. Every worker who wanted to be an organizer could be an organizer. Those new organizers talked indefatigably to others, most effectively within their nationality, community or language groups.
ALU received organizational support from established unions and left, socialist and communist groups. Workers World Party is proud to say it supported the ALU from Day One. (See “Interview: Amazon worker battles billionaire Bezos,” Workers World, April 7, 2020)
The result? Victory. And now that there has been undeniable victory, what is the response of the capitalist class?
There were hand-wringing diatribes that listed the terrible things that will happen. Jim Cramer of CNBC “Squawk on the Street” said: “The unions will be in charge of the time that you need to work, and that would be dreadful! One reason why Amazon works so well is that people must work when Amazon says you must work.” (tinyurl.com/mufjhcm3)
This Wall Street maven actually told a truth that motivates why workers should want unions!
Big business media has turned to bad-mouthing traditional labor unions in relation to “upstart” independent worker organizing, like the ALU. This is simply a variation on the “labor unions are bad for you” lies of the mandatory worker meetings.
It’s the old familiar ploy of pitting workers against each other. The ruling class will use racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ+ or anti-disability prejudice – anything to keep workers from building solidarity.
This time they are trying to split the newer “independent” unions and the older “traditional” unions.
And of course this is more disinformation. Many, if not most, of the independent unions now forming are getting some kind of support and information from established unions. For instance, the UNITE HERE Local 100 office in Manhattan was the center of phone banking for the successful ALU campaign.
Anti-union commentators are pointing an accusing finger at the recent vote at the Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon warehouse as a “failure” by the established Retail Warehouse Department Store Union (RWDSU).
The outcome of that BAmazon vote, which ended March 25, has yet to be decided. Objectively, the ballots show a clear and dramatic gain for the union in this second election attempt in one year. Last year’s tally was a dismal 2 to 1 against the union.
This year – with increased support from their community and other local unions and a re-invigorated person-to-person campaign – the workers’ vote bounced back to a so-far-counted 993 “against” to 875 “in favor” – a difference of only 118 votes! And there are 416 contested ballots.
Victory is still possible in Bessemer. The turnaround in “yes” votes in one year is already the equivalent of an organizing triumph. Even if the contested votes are not ruled for the union, there will surely be another drive, and then another, until there is victory.
Capitalist bosses are going to use every possible tool to try to wreck the worker organizing in their factories, warehouses, schools, hospitals – everywhere.
But the ongoing Starbucks surge is now being amplified by the valiant Amazon worker victory. Already in North Carolina the formation of CAUSE has been announced – Carolina Amazonians United for Solidarity and Empowerment. African American leader Mary Hill, an Amazon worker in Raleigh, said: “We’re tired of the divisions inside, that’s why we decided to organize.” (Southern Workers Assembly @SWA_solidarity, April 2)
Expect more campaigns to emerge immediately. Get ready to jump in and lend a hand. Worker solidarity wins!