Amazon Defeats Unionization Drive in Alabama

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. April 9, 2021
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an Amazon facility

​Amazon defeated the unionization drive at its warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., according to a count on April 9. The president of the union that led the organizing drive indicated that the union would challenge the vote.

We've gathered articles on the unionization drive from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets.

A Week to Contest Results

Amazon employees in Alabama voted not to unionize. More than 70 percent of the Bessemer, Ala., warehouse workers voted against joining the union, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Each side has approximately a week to contest the results. The union said it would appeal the vote. Amazon has said it followed the law in communicating with workers before and during the election.

(The Wall Street Journal)

Union Challenge of Vote Signaled

The outcome of the vote emerged early in the counting of the votes, with workers rejecting the union by a more than 2-to-1 margin in an early count. Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, signaled that the union would sue if union organizers didn't win. "Our system is broken. Amazon took advantage of that, and we will be calling on the labor board to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign," he said, without specifying allegations. "But make no mistake about it: this still represents an important moment for working people, and their voices will be heard."

(Fortune)

What Was the Significance of the Amazon Workers' Unionization Drive?

Union campaigners at Amazon have stated that they viewed the campaign in Bessemer, Ala., as a prelude to efforts directed at other companies, said Marty Martenson and James Taylor, attorneys with Martenson, Hasbrouck & Simon in Atlanta, in an e-mail. Union leaders have characterized Amazon as engaging in union-busting tactics in opposing the unionization drive. But legal experts say Amazon has acted the same as any other company resisting unionization.

(SHRM Online)

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Preparing for the Possibility of Union Organizing]

Workers' Concerns

Workers spend long hours on their feet picking, packaging and shipping items as quickly as they can. Their days reportedly are dictated by algorithms that survey every move and dole out punishments when targets aren't met or workers go over their allotted time off task. Some workers have lodged complaints about excessive heat in the warehouse, which is one of more than 100 fulfillment centers across the nation.

(Vox)

Amazon's Rationale for Its Standards

An Amazon spokesperson said that, "like most companies, we have performance expectations for every Amazonian, be it a corporate employee or fulfillment center associate, and we measure actual performance against those expectations." She said performance is "measured and evaluated over a long period of time" and "we support people who are not performing to the levels expected with dedicated coaching to help them improve." She added that workers may "grab a snack, water or use the toilet whenever needed" without addressing complaints that workers are penalized for doing so.

(The Verge)

Biden Discusses Unionization

In a video posted to his Twitter account, President Joe Biden made a statement at the end of February in support of union organizers, though he stopped short of telling the Amazon workers to unionize. "It's not up to me to decide whether anyone should join a union. But let me be even more clear: It's not up to an employer to decide that either. The choice to join a union is up to the workers. Full stop." He added, "Workers in Alabama and all across America are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace. This is vitally important—a vitally important choice."

(The New York Times)

Amazon Defends Its Workplace

"As it relates to progressive Democrats in general, we've been surprised by some of the negative things we've seen certain members say in the press and on social media," said Drew Herdener, Amazon's vice president for worldwide communications. "If there's a progressive company in this country, it's Amazon. Find me another large company paying two times the minimum wage, providing great health benefits from day one, 95 percent education reimbursement, safe working environment and so on. We really think we are an example of what a U.S. company should be doing for its employees."

(The New York Times)

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