- Amazon easily beat historic Union Drive earlier this year at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.
- With another vote likely, Amazon has intensified its campaign at the warehouse.
Earlier this year, Amazon conveniently beat historic Union Drive at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. But with another vote likely to come, the online retailer is leaving no stone unturned.
In the past few weeks, Amazon has ramped up its operations at the warehouse, according to interviews and documents seen by Reuters, allowing thousands of employees to attend meetings, posting vital signs of labor groups in bathrooms and employees from the West Coast. was forced to fly. .
It’s a sign that Amazon is sticking to its aggressive playbook. In August, a hearing official for the US National Labor Relations Board said the company’s conduct around the previous vote interfered with the Bessemer union election. The decision of the Regional Director of NLRB to order a fresh vote is forthcoming. Amazon has denied wrongdoing and said it wants employees’ voices to be heard.
Still, moves to discourage unionization ahead of any second election, previously unrestricted, show how Amazon is fighting representation at its US workplaces.
A spurt in labor activity has prompted Amazon to respond since workers refused to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) in April.
Other major associations, such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, are also vowing to settle Amazon. The risk: Unions could change how Amazon manages its vast, finicky operations and drive up costs at a time when a labor shortage is weighing down on its profits.
Wilma Liebmann, former NLRB chair, said the stakes are high.
“They’re really, really afraid of any toe in the door of unionization,” Liebmann said. “There is nothing like a victory, and a victory can be contagious.”
In a statement, Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said a union would “affect everyone on the site, so it’s important that all employees understand what this means for them and their daily lives working at Amazon.”
In the new campaign, Amazon has dedicated a week of mandatory meetings to warn employees that unions are forcing them to strike and give up pay, with workplaces recently halted nationwide. .
And like last time, Amazon has said unions are taking workers’ money and asked employees to consider what it can guarantee and what unions can’t — now panels above bathroom stalls and urinals. In. Panels also hold information unrelated to unions.
“Unions can make a lot of promises, but cannot guarantee that you will get better pay, benefits or working conditions,” read a photo shared with Reuters.
According to worker accounts, some employees have challenged Amazon’s claims and posted their own pro-union signs in warehouse bathrooms.
Meanwhile, RWDSU has sent personnel to Bessemer, facilitated nightly chat at a burger joint, and knocked on the door. San Francisco State University professor John Logan said home visits are an important part of organizing the campaign because unions have no guarantees of workplace access under US law.
RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said the union has heard from employees who will now change their vote to join. He said he believes that knocking on the door gives the union a new edge.
“We have a greater opportunity to connect with people every day than at the height of the pandemic,” Appelbaum said. The last time the organizers did not visit the house due to COVID-19 fears.
He said that the effort of RWDSU is much more than that of Amazon. “It’s about the future of work.”
A spokesperson for Teamsters said the union has participated in strategy meetings on Amazon with other unions coordinated by the largest US labor federation, the AFL-CIO. Tim Schlitner of the AFL-CIO said the federation is “bringing labor movement resources” to support Amazon workers.
The roadblocks are immense, at least the RWDSU has to reach out to the new employees joining the company without knowing their names till the order of the official election. Appelbaum estimated that Amazon was hiring 200 people a week in Bessemer.
Amazon had no comment on the business. The number of warehouse headcounts exceeds 5,800.
On October 10, when Amazon raised hourly wages by 25 cents for more experienced employees, the company resumed mandatory weekly meetings in Bessemer to highlight various messages about unions. Amazon said the pay increase was unrelated to the meetings.
For Daryl Richardson, a vocal union supporter at the facility, the strike was a big focus of Amazon’s new campaign.
“They’re trying to scare you even more now,” Richardson said. “You don’t get paid to go on strike.”
According to Richardson, Amazon falsely said that a union would force workers to quit and they would be fined if they crossed a picket line. The 52-year-old said Amazon treated him differently: He was denied transfer requests, and an officer walking through the warehouse asked workers how they felt about unions, Richardson had little to say after scanning his badge… “‘You ‘Ray Darryl,’ he said. ‘Your mind is made up.'”
Amazon had no comment on Richardson’s comment.
Although the company told employees they could refuse to show organizers at their door, Richardson said he and teammates continued to knock while Amazon is making its case on home turf.
In a table-top sign Amazon placed in the warehouse, the company encouraged workers to “follow the money”, claiming that RWDSU gave Appelbaum “an increase of $30,000 paid for union dues” and Spent nearly $100,000 on cars last year. .
When asked for comment, Appelbaum said he has no union cars and is for representatives of the transportation sector, whose jobs require travel to workplaces.
Amazon is “misrepresenting information,” he said.
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