There is an important vote taking place that will end on March 29th and that is whether workers at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama can form a union.
Workers’ ballots must reach the National Labor Relations Board regional office in Alabama by 29 March to be counted. A majority of the ballots cast determine the outcome of the election, with around 5,800 employees eligible to vote.
Ballots for the election went out to workers on 8 February. Amazon’s attempts to delay the vote and force an in-person election were denied by the National Labor Relations Board.
The union effort has received several high profile endorsements, including a video released by President Joe Biden asserting his support for workers’ right to organize unions, endorsements from several members of Congress, including Senator Bernie Sanders and Republican Senator Marco Rubio, other labor unions such as the NFL Players Association, the MLB Players Association, support from Black Lives Matter and several local organizations.
According to an analysis by the Brookings Institution, Amazon’s profits increased by $9.4bn from 2019, and Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos saw his net worth increase by nearly $68bn. The report noted Amazon could have quintupled the hazard pay it provided to workers during the pandemic and still exceeded 2019 profits.
Richardson and other Amazon workers involved in the union organizing effort have fought for months against an aggressive Amazon anti-union campaign.
Amazon is spending nearly $10,000 each day plus expenses on anti-union consultants for the union election, as workers faced regular captive-audience meetings encouraging workers to vote against the union, have been inundated with anti-union text messages, ads, flyers, posters around the warehouse, and an anti-union website was launched. More recently, during the election, a USPS mailbox was installed at the warehouse and instructions were sent to workers on how to cast ballots in opposition to the union.
A report by the Economic Policy Institute in December 2019 found employers are charged with violating federal law in more than 54% of union elections with large bargaining units and US employers spend roughly $340m annually on consultants who specialize in union avoidance.
Amazon does pay its workers $15 per hour and offers health care and retirement benefits. But most if its workers still likely earn well below the median income fore full time workers. Having a union would likely enable the workers to bargain for more. But there are other immediate issues that a union would address, such as the demanding production goals that result in a brutal pace of work.
In addition, having Amazon workers be able to successfully unionize in the face of a massive effort to oppose it would energize efforts in other workplaces to form unions.