Think about getting written up at work because you had to go to the bathroom after hours of continuous work. Now think about voting to form a union in that workplace, along with 6,000 other coworkers, potentially altering the direction of a 1.5 trillion dollar company. That’s what workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama were faced with this past weekend. A total of 3,215 workers participated in the landmark vote, the RWDSU said in a statement earlier this week. There are some 5,800 workers at the Amazon facility, meaning voter turnout was approximately 55%. Of the some 3,200 votes cast in the closely-watched union election, a total of 1,798 votes were against unionization, compared to 738 in favor of it, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Even accounting for the 505 challenged ballots, Amazon has cinched enough “no” votes to defeat the organizing efforts.
A lot of the push for a union is coming for a huge increase in e-commerce sales because of the pandemic, entailing busier and sometimes longer shifts for employees, without compensation of additional pay. Amazon’s profits increased by $9.4 billion since 2019, and Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth increased by nearly $68 billion. Amazon could have quintupled hazard pay to workers during the pandemic and still have exceeded 2019 profits. Pro-union workers were vocal about the “time off task” system, which marks the time they are away from their stations, and about wanting to improve working conditions. Workers say the grueling conditions in Amazon warehouses are most similar to those faced in meat processing plants: fast repetitive heavy assembly-line work, standing in place for long periods with almost no break, frequent injuries and no respect, Workers who were pushing for the union mentioned issues of job security as well
Amazon and anti-Union advocates argued that Amazon already offers all of the benefits that a union would and would require monthly dues from workers. an Amazon spokesperson said that “Amazon already offers what unions are requesting for employees: industry-leading pay, comprehensive benefits from the first day on the job, opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern work environment.”
Amazon is being criticized by many for what is called “Union Busting” . Aside from apparently surveilling union activists. The company is reportedly spending $10,000 a day on anti-union consultants and attorneys. From Amazon’s putting up anti-union signs in the bathrooms at the warehouse to company sending targeted anti-Union ads on Twitch (the streaming service that it owns), reports of union-busting have kept coming. managers held impromptu “stand-up” meetings every day to dissuade workers from voting yes, workers watched anti-union videos. In January, Amazon brought in an outside firm to run meetings that the company said would answer questions about unionizing, according to workers, but some workers have called it a blatant attempt to mislead workers about union information.
Even though, the Amazon workers in Bessemer voted no, the amount of media and celebrity attention, as well as support from a prominent democratic senator in Bernie Sanders and a prominent Republican senator in Marco Rubio, will make it interesting for other Amazon facilities, where workers have thought of unionizing. If a union were to form in the future, Amazon and other corporate giants are worried that unions could pit workers against the company, degrade manager and employee relations, as well as overall efficiency within the company.