Amazon Union Drive Appears To Fail In Alabama

Organizers wear shirts in support of unionization of Amazon.com, Inc. fulfillment center workers outside the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) office in Birmingham, Alabama on March 26, 2021. (Phot... Organizers wear shirts in support of unionization of Amazon.com, Inc. fulfillment center workers outside the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) office in Birmingham, Alabama on March 26, 2021. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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The momentous unionization effort at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama appears to have failed as of Friday after the tally showed the “no” votes took up more than half the ballots.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which led the campaign, announced that the organization would be challenging the election results and filing a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accusing Amazon of “corrupting this election.”

“Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees,” RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said. “We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote.”

The company responded to the outcome with its own statement.

“Amazon didn’t win—our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union,” the company said. “Our employees are the heart and soul of Amazon, and we’ve always worked hard to listen to them, take their feedback, make continuous improvements, and invest heavily to offer great pay and benefits in a safe and inclusive workplace.”

President Joe Biden, arguably the most pro-labor president in recent history, had signaled support for the effort in February, declaring in a video that “workers in Alabama” were making a “vitally important choice” on whether to unionize.

He also slammed employer’s attempts to scare workers away from unionizing.

“There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda,” the President said.

Several lawmakers in Congress backed the unionization push as well: Reps. Andy Levin (D-MI), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Nikema Williams (D-GA) went to the facility to meet with the workers and organizers last month.

Senate Budget Committee chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) blasted Amazon for its aggressive campaign against unionization, leading the tech giant to start a bizarre Twitter feud with the senators.

That fight marked one of several of Amazon’s ill-considered attempts to clap back at critics of its labor abuses on Twitter, such as when the account snarkily asked Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?” in response to his remark that warehouse workers were made to urinate in bottles (they are, by the way).

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) emerged as the lone Republican to endorse the campaign, though he bizarrely framed his support around the GOP’s obsession with culture wars and combating “wokeness.”

Correction: This post originally misidentified Stuart Applebaum. He is president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. TPM regrets the error. 

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Notable Replies

  1. I guess Bessemer’s workers are happy to have jobs at all. Some time back I was visiting a customer in Birmingham and they took me to lunch to an excellent Greek restaurant in Bessemer, which seemed like only thing that was still going in town, everything else was boarded up shops, abandoned steel mills and warehouses, think a mini Cary Indiana with a nice restaurant. We parked at the Bessemer’s Chamber Of Commerce parking lot, and I was thinking that sad place that office would be.

  2. “Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees…”

    ”Sure, we have to pee in bottles under appalling conditions – but at least we’re not in a commie union!”

  3. Shitty messaging. It’s almost like an anti union agitator ran their campaign. WTF.

    TPM, this framing is dishonest:

    Appears? It was BEATDOWN 70-30. That is hard to accomplish. Framing it was close is absurd and a disservice to your readers.

  4. Growing pains
    The South is not union territory right now for multiple reasons

  5. I’m discouraged at how much of the Twitterati treat this result as indicative of funny business on Amazon’s part, or employees being duped/too dumb to vote in their own self-interest, etc. etc.

    Employees who voted in this union question have agency, and their decision is clear. Unions are not an end deliverable in and of themselves, but instead a tool that can solve some problems better than others. Far be it from me to tell Amazon warehouse workers how best to address their workplace concerns when I’ve never worked in one.

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