Amazon Is Fighting to Stop Its Warehouse Workers From Unionizing: “This election is about the future of work”
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Thousands of warehouse workers at an Amazon plant in Bessemer, Alabama, are at the center of a potentially game-changing union vote taking place right now. On February 8, the warehouse workers were sent ballots by mail to decide over the next seven weeks if they want to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Just getting to this point was a major victory considering the aggressive union busting by the world’s largest retailer and the fact that employees are working during a pandemic. If workers vote affirmatively, they would have the first unionized Amazon workplace in the United States.
Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the RWDSU, described to me in an interview the shocking details of what he calls “the most aggressive anti-union effort I’ve ever seen,” aimed at the 5,800-strong workforce. “They are doing everything they possibly can,” he said. The company has been “bombarding people with propaganda throughout the warehouse. There are signs and banners and posters everywhere, even in the bathroom stalls…”
The path to this union vote was paved by staggeringly high inequality that worsened during the pandemic as workers were stripped of their insultingly low hazard-bonus of $2 an hour while the company reaped massive gains over the past year. CEO and soon-to-be “Executive Chair” of Amazon, Jeff Bezos is the world’s second-richest man. He is now worth a mind-boggling $188 billion and saw his wealth increase by $75 billion, over the past year alone — the same time period that about 20,000 of his workers tested positive for the coronavirus.
Bezos’ announcement that he was moving into a new role at the company came on the same day that the Federal Trade Commission announced Amazon had stolen nearly $62 million in tips from drivers working for its “Flex” program. Appelbaum speculated that “what Bezos was trying to do was to create a distraction just like Trump would do,” and that “instead of focusing on the $62 million they stole from their drivers, people would talk about the fact that Bezos was getting a new title.”
Appelbaum sees the historic union vote in Bessemer as more than just a labor struggle. “Eighty-five percent of the people who work at the facility are African American. We see this being as much a civil rights struggle as a labor struggle,” he said. Indeed, conditions at the warehouse are so shocking that they sound like a modern-day, technologically enabled incarnation of slavery. “People were being dehumanized and mistreated by Amazon,” said the union president. He explained, “people get their assignments from a robot, they’re disciplined by an app on their phone, and they’re fired by text message. Every motion they make is being surveilled… the level to which Amazon has fought against unionization at just one warehouse in Alabama is an indication of how important it is to the company that its workers remain powerless.”
February 16, 2021 at 2:19 PM #404061
February 16, 2021 at 7:16 PM #404161Cold Mountain TrailParticipant
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A tale of two websites: How Amazon, union are telling their stories
As a vote begins among Amazon workers in Bessemer on whether to join a union, both organizers and the online retailer are using the Internet to make their points.
Ballots go out this week for a mail-in vote among more than 5,000 Amazon workers at the company’s fulfillment center in Bessemer. The votes will be counted in late March. If approved, the workers would be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)…
But both the union and Amazon are employing their own special websites to make their cases, pro and con. The pro-union site, Bamazonunion.com – makes the union drive synonymous with the state, and employs a logo showing the outline of Alabama, turning Amazon’s smile logo upside down into a frown. It’s a familiar tactic – co-opting the company brand, and flipping the Amazon smile have been used in other campaigns…
To make its case against a union, Amazon’s site, doitwithoutdues.com, hammers home a message that members will be on the hook for monthly dues, and at the mercy of a union that could vote to strike, endangering their jobs and benefits…that workers would have little control over what decisions a union makes if they vote to join it… contrasts “doers” – employees committed to productivity and success, with “due’rs” – making a more adversarial work atmosphere…
The Amazon site has even inspired a parody site, Justdue.it, which reuses the images and aesthetics of Amazon’s anti-union site to give a pro-union message. Connor said the RWDSU is not responsible for this site.
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