Amazon employees complete their historic vote to form a union on Monday, a first in the US

Amazon’s key employees in Alabama had until Monday, March 29, to vote for or against forming a union, which would be a first in the country. The result of the vote should be known by the end of the week.

Voting for or against forming a union in an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, which would be the first in the United States, ends Monday, March 29, after a David-style campaign against Goliath that is already considered historic was, or after the judgment of the ballot box. “Amazon’s worst fear has already arisen: 3,000 employees said they couldn’t work in these conditions,” said Joshua Brewer, local president of RWDSU, the sales union that will represent the Bessemer’s 5,800 employees if they vote for it.

Since last fall, trade unionists have been taking turns at the entrance to the complex, basically trying to collect enough agreements (they had 3,000) and then convince them to transform the test. Before sunrise on Monday morning, a handful of volunteers from Portland or Boston were still there to thank the staff for their mobilization. “We have waited a long time for this, but the change is coming!” We could read on their signs.

“We only want respect and dignity”

The counting of the votes sent by post is to begin on Tuesday under the direction of the federal agency responsible for labor law. Results are expected by the end of the week at best, depending on the number of contested ballots (signature in the wrong place, wrong profession, etc.). “It’s the beginning of the less beautiful part for us that we hand over to the lawyers,” notes Joshua Brewer, expecting legal complications.

For him, Amazon will certainly try to delay the result “by all means possible”. The movement emerged from the noses of many exhausted employees who feel treated like “robots” or “prisoners”. “We only want respect and dignity,” summarizes Jennifer Bates, one of the employees who invested in the movement. “It means safe working conditions, job security and appropriate wages.”

800,000 Amazon employees in the US

“The number of RWDSU members has declined for two decades, but this is no reason (…) to falsify the facts,” Amazon responded on Monday. “Our employees know the truth: earnings of $ 15 an hour or more, health insurance, and a safe and inclusive workplace. We’ve encouraged all of our employees to vote,” said spokeswoman Heather Knox.

The e-commerce giant hired hard in 2020, doubling its net profit to nearly $ 21 billion thanks to the explosion in demand during a pandemic. But America’s second largest employer (800,000 employees) does not want to take the risk that union formation will not succeed in Bessemer or elsewhere, while Joe Biden has promised to be the “most union-friendly president” in the country.

An absolute desire for control?

The group recently tightened its tone on Twitter against elected officials who support the union and made fun of allegations of short delays in reaching the bathroom. Employees said Amazon flooded them with texts, posters, and meetings to fight the scarecrow with high union dues (nearly $ 500 a year).

The company consistently insists on paying twice what is required in Alabama. But Joshua Brewer notes that “other warehouses in the area are paying $ 18 to $ 20 an hour.” For this former pastor and many observers, it is less about finances than about exercising absolute control. The Seattle Group is ready to “spend almost indefinitely,” “to maintain its power over everything, to ensure that workers cannot negotiate (…) and to prove that any attempt is doomed,” analyzes Rebecca Givan. Professor of Social Relations at Rutgers University.

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