The most closely watched union election in recent history is taking place in Alabama, where nearly 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse near Birmingham are voting if they want to form a union. The election drew attention from President Biden, NFL players and Hollywood actors, making it a highly valuable test of whether a union has a role in one of the Largest recruitment in the country or not.
The consolidation effort, which began last summer, is the largest and most viable organizational campaign among Amazon workers in the United States. Here’s what you need to know about it.
Who are the workers behind it?
The union push came from a group of mainly black workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Ala., Just outside of Birmingham. Late last summer, they approached a local branch of the Union of Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores, which had grown in the South, particularly in the poultry sector, an industry with employment. Dangerous traditions and many black staff.
The union deployed organizers to work at nearby warehouses and poultry farms to focus full-time talking with workers at the Amazon warehouse. At the end of December, more than 2,000 workers signed on cards saying they wanted an election, the union said. The National Industrial Relations Commission determined that those signatures signal “sufficient” interest in holding a vote.
Why is this happening now?
Two large forces helped spur the consolidation effort: the epidemic’s focus on essential workers and the racism caused by the Black Lives Matter protests.
Amazon opened the Bessemer repository in March 2020, just as the coronavirus is up and running in the US. The pandemic clarified the vital role of the essential workers, many of whom are Black and paid by the hour, serving customers and the economy at large. Amazon saw phenomenal growth last year, when people turned to online shopping instead of venturing into stores. It had a massive hiring, ending the year with 1.3 million employees and $ 386 billion in revenue.
In the early summer, George Floyd’s murder prompted racial justice calls, and the coalition focused the organization on the issues of racial equality and empowerment. It has a decades-long history of active citizenship and labor issues in the region. Around the same time, Amazon ended up paying workers earlier in the pandemic. Workers who start the organization report that their wages are not commensurate with the risks they incur and the productivity they must maintain.
What is Amazon’s position?
Amazon said it doesn’t believe unions represent the views of the majority of employees and that it would disrupt the company’s direct relationships with employees. Amazon increases the minimum wage by $ 15 an hour, plus benefits like healthcare and parental leave. The minimum wage in Alabama is $ 7.25 per hour.
In communication with workers, through signs in bathroom stalls, a website, and mail, Amazon says union fees will leave workers with less money for what they want. or need, such as school supplies. It is not mentioned that in Alabama, a “right to work” state, payment is optional.
How does voting take place?
Amazon wanted the vote to take place in person, for example, but the National Industrial Relations Commission found that the pandemic made it too risky and ordered an election to be held by mail. Ballots were sent to the workers in early February and must be signed and received by the labor council by March 30, when they begin to be counted. Because both sides may dispute the votes, there is a possibility that the final tally may not be announced for a few days or weeks after the tally has begun.
The Labor Council will recognize the union if a majority of votes support it.