A historic unionization vote by Alabama Amazon workers could have a ripple effect across the United States – one that the company is likely to challenge.
Alabama Amazon Vote Attracts National Interest
On Feb. 8, 2021, workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, AL began voting by mail on whether or not to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The Alabama Amazon vote is scheduled to run through March 29.
After that deadline, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) would begin counting the ballots on a virtual platform, with both Amazon and the RWDSU allowed to have four people attend the count. A majority of the nearly 6,000 workers at the facility would need to vote “yes” in order to unionize. If they do, this would be the first Amazon workers’ union to be established in the United States.
The historic nature of the unionization push at the Alabama Amazon facility has attracted national interest. The effort has drawn widespread support from other labor groups, including the National Football League Players Association. Even Pres. Joe Biden has weighed in, issuing a warning not to interfere with the vote.
“There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda,” Biden said in a video broadcast that did not explicitly mention Amazon by name. “No supervisor should confront employees about their union preferences.”
Other Workers May Join In
Even more significantly, the Alabama Amazon vote appears likely to create a ripple effect among the company’s other workers, many of whom have contacted the RWDSU to ask about setting up unionization drives at their own workplaces.
“More than 1,000 Amazon workers from around the country have reached out to the RWDSU seeking information about unionizing their workplaces,” said RWDSU spokeswoman Chelsea Connor.
The gains for Amazon employees in Alabama and elsewhere stand to be significant. If these workers successfully unionize, they could obtain the right to bargain collectively over working conditions, including wages, breaks, safety standards, and other concerns. Joining the RWDSU might also enable these workers to become “just cause” instead of “at-will” employees, which could place limits on Amazon’s ability to terminate them.
Amazon Fighting Unionization Efforts
But if the gains for these workers could be significant, so too could the potential impact on Amazon’s profits – and the company has proven itself to be unwilling to let unionization happen without a fight, both before, during, and after the vote.
Prior to the Alabama Amazon vote, the company unsuccessfully petitioned the NLRB for a delay. The petition included a motion that workers vote in person rather than by mail, which was determined to be a health risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then, Amazon has aggressively tried to convince employees at the Alabama fulfillment center to vote against unionization. For example, the company maintains a “Do It Without Dues” website encouraging workers to avoid paying union dues by maintaining the status quo.
“If you’re paying dues…it will be restrictive, meaning it won’t be easy to be as helpful and social with each other,” according to the site. “So be a doer, stay friendly, and get things done versus paying dues.”
At one point, Amazon started targeting workers with anti-union ads on the streaming platform Twitch, which the company owns. Twitch ultimately removed the ads for violating its policies on political advertising. Some Alabama Amazon workers have even complained that they have been bombarded with similar messaging in bathroom stalls in the workplace.
Additionally, Vice has reported that workers have been receiving texts telling them to place their ballots in a newly installed mailbox outside the Alabama Amazon warehouse by March 1 — despite the fact that the voting runs until March 29.
Even if Alabama workers vote to join the union, Amazon’s campaign is probably far from over. Experts note that the company will still have a number of options at its disposal, including contesting the results, dragging out talks with the RWDSU, or shutting down the fulfillment center entirely.
Mindful of the challenges that lay ahead, RWDSU Pres. Stuart Appelbaum said that even getting to a vote is a victory for labor because its importance “transcends this one company; it’s really what the future of work will look like.”
Committed to Protecting Workers’ Interests
Regardless of the outcome of the vote at the Alabama Amazon facility, workers will continue to need somebody to protect their interests when they get hurt on the job. Unfortunately in this country, injured employees often face opposition when trying to obtain the benefits to which they are legally entitled, a level of opposition that is far greater when dealing with a multi-billion-dollar company like Amazon. To help overcome these hurdles, consider doing what so many others have done before you and retain the Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
With more than $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements on behalf of injured clients, GWC is one of the leading Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury law firms in Illinois. For over forty years, we have been defending the rights of employees in nearly every industry. Our union workers’ compensation lawyers have the experience, the determination, the resources, and the well-earned reputation of success necessary to get you and your family the justice you deserve.
To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our dedicated attorneys, contact GWC today. You may call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.