By the end of Monday, thousands of yellow envelopes mailed to a brick squat building in Birmingham, Alabama, will bring the fate of one of the most closely watched union elections in recent history, which could change the form of the labor movement.
The envelopes contain the ballots of workers from an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer. Nearly 6,000 workers at the building, one of Amazon’s largest, are eligible to decide whether to form the first union in an Amazon operation in the United States, after years of fierce resistance from the company.
The ballots were mailed to workers in early February and must be signed and received by the labor relations board by the end of Monday. On Tuesday, the counting of the votes begins – a process that could take several days.
Organizers argued during a months-long campaign that Amazon’s intense surveillance of workers undermines their dignity and that its pay is not commensurate with the constant pressure workers feel to produce. . The union estimates that around 85% of the warehouse’s workforce is black and has linked the organization to the fight for racial justice.
Amazon countered that its minimum wage of $ 15 was double the state’s minimum and that it offered health insurance and other benefits that can be hard to find in low-wage jobs.
Whatever the outcome of the vote, the union campaign has already succeeded in shaking the world’s largest e-commerce company and bringing to light complaints about its labor practices.
The vote comes at a delicate time for the company, which faces increasing scrutiny in Washington and around the world for its market power and influence, which have grown during the pandemic as consumers flocked to it. online to avoid stores. President Biden has shown his support for workers, as have many progressive leaders.
If the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union succeeds, it would be a huge victory for the labor movement, whose membership has declined for decades. If the union loses, especially by a wide margin, Amazon will have turned the tide on a unionization campaign that seemed to have a lot of wind in its back.
“Obviously, we want to win,” Independent Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont said on Friday during his visit to Alabama. “But I think a major point has already been proven. And it is that the workers, even in the Deep South, are ready to stand up, organize and fight for justice.
Mr Sanders’ visit appears to have struck a nerve at Amazon. After announcing the trip, Dave Clark, who heads Amazon’s operations and consumer activities around the world, attacked Mr. Sanders in a series of Twitter posts, as did the company’s official social media account. .
“I often say that we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not quite right because we actually provide a progressive workplace,” Mr. Clark written in a tweet.