Business & Economy

Vote to form 1st Amazon union in US falls far short

San Francisco, Apr 9 (EFE).- E-commerce behemoth, Inc. defeated an attempt to form a union at one of its warehouses in Bessemer, Alabama, with workers voting against the effort by a wide margin on Friday.

A majority of voters (1,798) rejected the proposal, thus making the result official. Only 24 percent (738) of a group of 3,117 workers cast a ballot in favor of forming a union, while several hundred ballots were not tallied after their validity was challenged.

But the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which organized the drive, refused to accept the result.

It said it will file Objections and related Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging irregularities in the voting process and an effort by the company to intimidate workers.

“Amazon knew full well that unless they did everything they possibly could, even illegal activity, their workers would have continued supporting the union. That’s why they required all their employees to attend lecture after lecture, filled with mistruths and lies,” RWDSU’s president, Stuart Appelbaum, was quoted as saying in a press release.

For its part, the National Retail Federation issued a statement in response to a vote that was seen as a possible bellwether of broader gains for organized labor in the United States.

“Union representation is a choice for workers, but many clearly prefer opportunities in a competitive marketplace that provides strong wages and benefits over the anonymity of a collective bargaining agreement,” the NRF said.

US President Joe Biden had alluded to the Amazon unionization drive in a statement in early March in which he spoke out strongly in favor of unions and workers’ right to collectively bargain.

The company led by CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s wealthiest individual according to Forbes magazine, is the second-largest employer in the US behind retail giant Walmart.

Amazon has seen a big increase in revenues and net income since the onset of the pandemic, a period of time in which it has hired tens of thousands of new workers.

The company in 2018 raised its starting wage for US workers to $15 an hour, which is twice the minimum wage of the state of Alabama, and also provides its workers with health insurance and retirement benefits.

But it has a history of staunchly opposing efforts to unionize, and in the lead-up to the vote even got into a war of words on Twitter with two prominent Democratic senators and 2020 presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both of whom have criticized Amazon’s labor and business practices.

Had a union been approved, it would have been the first for Amazon’s workers in the US.

In an interview with Efe, Robin Gaster, a visiting scholar at the George Washington University Institute for Public Policy and an expert on Amazon, said the absence of unions at the company was primarily due to its employment model based on rapid employee turnover.

The climate is not conducive to union formation because there is not enough time for trust and solidarity to develop among workers, the author of “Behemoth, Amazon Rising: Power and Seduction in the Age of Amazon” said. EFE


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