When Graham Brooks received his ballot in early February, asking if he wanted to form a union at the Amazon warehouse in Alabama where he worked, he didn’t hesitate. He checked the box NO, and mailed the ballot.
After nearly six years working at nearby newspapers, Brooks, 29, makes about $ 1.55 an hour at Amazon and is optimistic that he can move up.
“I personally don’t feel the need to have a union,” he said. “If I was treated differently, I might have voted differently.”
Mr. Brooks is one of the nearly 1,800 employees who have helped Amazon win the company’s toughest battle to keep companies out of its warehouse. The results – announced last week, with 738 workers voting to form unions – dealt a blow to labor and Democrats as conditions were ripe for them to progress.
For some warehouse workers, like Mr. Brooks, the minimum wage of $ 15 an hour is higher than what they did in previous jobs and provides a strong incentive to stand side by side with the company. Amazon’s health insurance, which starts on the first day of work, also promotes loyalty, employees said.
Carla Johnson, 44, said she learned she had brain cancer just a few months after starting work last year at a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. Amazon’s health care paid for her treatment.
“I was able to come on Day One with vested interests and that could make a difference between life or death,” Ms. Johnson said at a press event Amazon held after the vote.
Patricia Rivera, who worked at the Bessemer warehouse from September to January, said many of her colleagues in their 20s and younger were opposed to the union because they felt pressured by Amazon’s anti-union campaign. and feel that wages and benefits are stable.
“For a younger person, that’s the biggest money they’ve ever made,” said Ms. Rivera, who would vote in favor of the union if she stayed. “I credit them. They start for you and you get instant coverage. “
Ms. Rivera left Amazon because she felt she felt she was not being adequately compensated for the time she had to take off while in isolation after being exposed to Covid-19 at work, she said.
Amazon, in a post-election statement, said, “We’re not perfect, but we’re proud of our team and what we offer, and will continue to work to get better.” everyday.”
Other workers reported in interviews that they or their co-workers did not trust the union or trust Amazon’s anti-union message that workers could change the company from within. Often times, in explaining their point of view, they repeat the arguments Amazon made during mandatory meetings, where it emphasizes paying wages, raising doubts about what a union can undertake. said and assumed that benefits could be reduced if workers consolidate.
When a union representative called her about the vote, Ms. Johnson said, he couldn’t answer a clear question about what the union could promise to offer.
“He hung up with me,” she said. “If you try to sell me something, I need you to be able to sell that product.”
Danny Eafford, 59, said he took every opportunity to tell colleagues at the warehouse that he was strongly opposed to the union, saying it would not improve their situation. He said he told colleagues about how frustrated a union was when he lost his job years ago at the Postal Service.
His job, which involved ordering cardboard, tape and other items, did not qualify him to vote. But when the company provided the “VOTE NO” pin, he happily put one on his jacket.
“The union’s job is not to keep you – it’s to keep people,” he told colleagues. “If you’re looking for personal help, it won’t be there.”
JC Thompson, 43, said he believes in management’s commitment to improving the workplace over the next 100 days, a promise made during the company’s campaign. He joined other anti-unionists to push Amazon to train better employees and educate managers on anti-bias techniques.
“We will do everything we can to fix those problems,” said Mr. Thompson. He appeared with Ms. Johnson at the Amazon event.
New Life Interfaith Ministry Pastor George Matthews said many of his team members worked in the warehouse, just a few miles away, and have expressed gratitude for the work. But he was still surprised and disappointed that many people did not vote for unity, even in the south, which has traditionally been anti-union, because they described how difficult the job was.
Speaking to communities, Mr Matthews said, he believes workers are too scared to push more and risk what they have.
“You don’t want to turn the apple cart over because those apples are sweet – bigger than the apples I’ve had before – so you don’t disturb it,” he said.
With mandatory meetings and ongoing texting, Amazon used its advantage to run a more successful campaign than its unions, says Alex Colvin, Cornell’s head of Industrial and Industrial Relations. know.
“We know the repositioning campaigns,” he said.
Stuart Applebaum, president of the retail workers union leading the organizational effort, cited several factors to explain the loss in addition to Amazon’s anti-union efforts.
He points out the high rate of revenue among employees, estimating that as many as 25% of Amazon workers eligible to vote in early January left after the end of the vote in late March – likely is higher than the company’s overall winning margin. . Mr. Appelbaum speculates that those who leave will be more likely to support the union because they are often less satisfied with their jobs.
Mr. Brooks said that on the previous Friday, he had seen eight or 10 new faces in the area where he worked.
“I was told they were Day 3 employees,” he said, “and today I noticed a few more.”
Many warehouse workers complain about Amazon, wanting shorter hours or less annoying overseeing their production. Mr. Brooks and others say they wish their 10-hour shifts were longer than 30 minutes because in the vast warehouse they could spend almost half their break just walking to and from the dining room. noon.
The low voter turnout rate, only about half of the total qualified workers, shows that neither Amazon nor the union received overwhelming support.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive officer, said Thursday in his annual letter to investors that the Bessemer results didn’t give him “comfort.”
“For me, it is clear that we need a better vision of how we create value for our employees – a vision for their success,” he wrote.
Michael Corkery Contribution reports.