Is the Amazon unionization destined to fail?


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Many are wondering whether or not the Amazon unionization in Alabama will actually succeed.

Sam Elwell, Herald Reporter

The United States has seen a large push for social and political change, whether it be to restructure law enforcement or flipping the White House and Congress to democratic leadership this past year. The fight for labor rights and safer working conditions was bolstered throughout the pandemic. Millions of essential workers spent this time continuing to work uninterrupted by COVID-19. Because of this, the topic of working conditions came back in full force as people tried juggling their health and well-being with the need for financial support. I believe the pandemic, among the other permanent societal changes it may bring, will keep the topic of labor rights at the forefront of American politics.

For more than a month, a struggle in Alabama has swept across the nation as one of the largest unionization efforts the U.S. has seen in decades. Since Feb. 8, voting has been underway for an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama to form the first union within the trillion-dollar e-commerce giant. The vote would result in the warehouse becoming part of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Workers cite constant uninterrupted hours with scarce breaktime, close monitoring of their production quotas and failure to address harassment in the workplace as major factors in speaking out.

Amazon, a notoriously anti-union company, has spent this time running a harsh campaign against unionization through posters plastering the walls of the warehouse along with automated text messages to its employees encouraging them to vote no on their union authorization cards, citing regular union dues being taken out of paychecks. Additionally, the company has been spreading the hashtag #DoItWithoutDues and has launched a website bearing the same phrase.

Despite these efforts, the movement has garnered too much support, both in the country and abroad, to be dismissed so easily. House Education & Labor Committee member Andy Levin along with 50 other U.S. representatives sent a letter to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos showing their support for the union and asking the company to cut down on its anti-union messages. President Biden released a statement expressing his support for labor unions and that he “made it clear…that [his] administration’s policy would be to support unions organizing and the right to collectively bargain.” Long-time labor rights activist, Senator Bernie Sanders, also expressed his support for the union in an interview with The Washington Post where he said: “If they can win, I think that will send a message to workers all over this country that if you are prepared to stand up and fight, you can win a union, you can win better wages and better working conditions.”

What will happen if more than 5,800 workers organize for the first time in Amazon’s history? Can it succeed? While I try to stay optimistic about such issues, it cannot be ignored that Amazon has great influence across the world and has squashed unionization attempts in the past, most recently in 2014 with a Delaware warehouse. It is strict on those who do attempt to speak out for labor unions. Additionally, this is taking place in Alabama, a state not particularly supportive of organized labor. Though the sentiment and support exist, the uphill battle that these workers face provides a significant challenge and if successful, may lead to similar movements across the United States. The unionization vote will be counted and finalized on March 30.