After Amazon lost an attempt to block mail-in ballots, ballots are being mailed to employees at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama giving the 6,000 employees the option to join a union.
This is the first time that Amazon has faced a major attempt by employees to unionize since 2014 when repair technicians at a Delaware warehouse tried but failed to garner enough votes to join a union.
“The importance of this vote transcends this one facility,” Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, told The Hill. “Amazon is transforming industry after industry, and, especially given its size, is determining what the future of work will look like.”
The facility in Bessemer has been open for less than a year and has faced criticism for low wages, exhausting work quotes and a failure by the company to institute sufficient standards to prevent the spread of the coronavirus within the facility.
Just three months after the facility opened, employees reached out to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and began organizing for the push to unionize the facility. The effort went public in October when the RWDSU filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board and by December more than 2,000 workers had signed cards backing the election, according to the RWDSU.
Shortly after the National Labor Relations Boards originally ruled that the election could take place, Amazon launched a website, DoITWithoutDues.com, aimed at discouraging employees from voting to approve the union.
The site is riddled with anti-union propaganda including the repeated line of “Do it without dues,” which is misleading because Alabama is a right-to-work state, and employees have to okay the deduction of union dues from their paychecks.
Amazon has also made clear through anti-union videos, surveillance programs, and the firing of union organizers that it staunchly opposes the formation of unions in its facilities. To represent the company in the Alabama union drive, according to Vice.
According to employees, Amazon’s push of anti-union propaganda is relentless.
“Amazon is in my texts, they’re in our breakroom, and they’re even in the bathroom telling us to vote union no,” Darryl Richardson, a picker at the facility who backs the unionization effort,” told The Hill. “It’s an insane level of propaganda, and all of it is very misleading.”
According to the RWDSU, the attempt to form a union in Bessemer has the potential to change workplaces throughout the country.
“Just the fact that we are going to an election is a game-changer for Amazon,” Appelbaum told The Hill. “The election itself now opens the door for more organizing at Amazon throughout North America.”