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Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama to hold historic union vote

By staff |
February 1, 2021
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Bessemer, AL - It has been less than one year since Amazon opened its new warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama and already the workers there have been fighting to join the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). More than 2000 workers at the Bessemer warehouse have already signed union cards and submitted them to the National Labor Relations Board, which in turn has authorized a union election to take place beginning on February 8.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Amazon has dramatically increased in size and now employs more than 1.2 million workers, which is up more than 50% from one year earlier. The Bessemer warehouse employs more than 5800 workers and would be the first in the United States to form a union if the vote goes through later this month.

RWDSU says that they see the organizing drive as both about fighting for union rights and about fighting for civil rights. Alabama is a right-to-work state and if these workers vote to unionize it would be a major victory for the labor movement in the South. Additionally, a vote to join the union would be significant as a road map for other Amazon workers across the country who wish to form unions and have a legally recognized voice in decisions.

Bessemer’s population is predominantly Black. Black workers have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic both in death rate, access to healthcare, and economically. RWDSU has a history of fighting alongside Black workers to form unions in the South. A Black organizer with RWDSU named Henry Jenkins reported being shot at multiple times in past union campaigns in the area, and a bomb was found in 2011 attached to his car outside of a church in Selma, Alabama.

The National Labor Relations Board ordered a mail ballot vote to take place starting on February 2, but Amazon is trying to delay the vote and instead demand an in-person vote in which each person who wished to vote would be required to drive in to vote in-person despite the pandemic. Attempting to delay votes and make it harder to cast ballots is a common tactic used to bust unions during organizing drives. The company is claiming that the union does not represent the opinions of the majority of Amazon employees, but by attempting to delay the vote, it would appear that they do not believe their own words. The vote is set to continue as planned.

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