The Amazon unionizing fight approaches the end

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.


  1. Sam N says

    I worked at the Amazon warehouse in Kent, WA for a few months and have been working on an essay describing my experiences there because my friends find there is so much disinformation flying around. It’s no slavery, and I’m sure it’s far better than working conditions at meatpacking plants in Alabama. Nevertheless, they are far from being a humane company. There are a lot of interesting and very good design in their warehouses (which they call ‘fulfillment centers’, a euphemism I doubt has garnered them respect from anyone, anywhere. Use English, Amazon. They are warehouses). But other, not-so-good, design features and hilarious mismanagement stories abound. I really liked some of the other bottom level employees, and would just start laughing when managers threatened me with termination, as if I’m blind and couldn’t see I was performing well above the median worker.

    I was eventually ‘voluntarily self-terminated’, which should read fired, but Amazon has become a master of doublespeak. An Israeli woman I was talking to last night asked me, aren’t there worker’s rights? As I just chuckled, what country to you think you’re living in?

  2. Sam N says

    By the way, I was working there because 1 and a half years of teaching ‘part-time’ at a community college wasn’t deemed sufficient enough by Nevada to provide me with unemployment, not even just the Federal component.

    I’m also working on some pieces highlighting the corruption I found while working as a neuroscientist. I know some very good, honest, professors at top tier institutions, and many awful ones. I can think of a few examples of people that probably published fraudulent results, attained professorships, then when their fraud was discovered, proclaimed innocence and have maintained their jobs. I’m glad to see Marc Hauser has resigned. Unfortunately Vilayanur Ramachandran hasn’t also done so. I get a little sick whenever I see a copy of the Phantom Brain in someone’s house.

  3. Steve Cameron says

    I was wondering why I was hearing Amazon crow so much about its $15/hour wage these past weeks in advertisements on the more corporate podcasts I listen to, especially the NYT’s The Daily and The Ezra Klein Show. I always find it unbecoming when a giant corp mired in controversy like Amazon is allowed to buy PR (as opposed to product) ads in podcasts that purport to be journalistic like those of the NYT or the Economist. Last year The Daily did a few episodes on Amazon and its poor treatment of workers, now they allow them 30 second spots to spout “worker-friendly” garbage as us. Where are the standards? And some people think the NYT is left wing and being corrupted by “wokeness.”

  4. Mano Singham says

    Sam N @#2,

    I knew about the Hauser case but had not heard anything adverse about Ramachandran. A quick search did not turn up anything significant. Do you have any links?

  5. Sam N says

    @4, Mano, No. This is mostly personal testimony and could be unreliable. Although in my experience, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I’ve never been funded as a journalist. VR is certainly a sexist asshole, and I’ve had extensive interactions with former grad students. So feel free to treat my words as hearsay. A lot more research has been published in the last 10 years. If I can find the motivation I’ll see about doing a thorough review. But I was extremely skeptical of his claims when I last looked into it.

  6. Sam N says

    There’s a lot of nonsense published in neuroscience. Contradictory claims. Results with extensive p-hacking. When I read a paper in J Neurosci, I treat it as a possibly 50/50 correct. If its in Nature Neurosci, maybe 25% accuracy.

  7. Sam N says

    I sort of wonder how much documented evidence there is out there about Rusty Gage. That dude suppressed honest scientists demonstrating hippocampal neuroregeneration via peer review until the evidence was overwhelming. Then published his own papers on it. Now the asshole is considered a ‘founder’ of that concept.

    There are some other long-term ‘respected’ scientists that have acknowledged their ‘perceived’ villainy in that matter. No, they were just assholes.

  8. Mano Singham says

    In the. case of Hauser, it appears that he was involved in fraud in manipulating the results. What I have seen is that Ramachandran is a publicity seeker who is willing to make exaggerated claims based on the flimsiest of evidence but not that he has manipulated data.

    I did not know that he was a sexist but am not surprised to learn that. It is all too common in academia. In my own exploration of graduate student mentoring, I learned about this very prominent researcher who would have women graduate students trying hard to join his group. It turns out that this was because word had spread among them that he treated women with respect and never made passes at them. As a result he had the very best students wanting to work with him.

  9. Sam N says

    I feel a bit guilty about just spouting this information publicly because I have at least one friend presently in one of these labs, depending on that income, who was NOT the source of any of this information. And I don’t think my ‘pseudonym’ is very difficult to crack. I sort of assume anyone who really wants to know who I am, already does.

  10. Sam N says

    Ugh. I have far more specific cases that I would want to clear with other parties involved because it would be far too obvious exactly who my source was. Heck, I was present when they were clearly breaking rules governing peer review and making backroom deals reluctantly agreed to for career’s sake. If you don’t think there’s wheeling and dealing that goes into publishing a Science or Nature paper, think again. I’ve seen some that appear to be honestly published, but the manipulation that occurs is disgusting.

    I’ve witnessed clear cases of animal abuse that had I been more senior or confident I would have reported.

    I can understand the difficulties associated with being a whistleblower.

    I have no desire to work in academic research ever again, but I have so many friends that still do.

  11. mnb0 says

    Amazing. Eg in Suriname forming unions is a constitutional right. Companies simply don’t have any means to obstruct this.

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