Exactly one year after an Amazon warehouse opened in Bessemer, Alabama, its workers are gathering in a monumental union vote that would pave the way for improved work conditions in all Amazon facilities.
The final tally for the union vote must be in by Monday to the National Labor Relations Board in order to meet the deadline for the election. The vote tally, to be announced later today, will determine if Amazon can continue violating worker’s rights or if they will form their first union.
The vote on forming an AMazon union began nearly two months ago — amid messages of support from celebrities and politicians, and those of disdain from Amazon attempting to block the formation of the union. Leading up to and throughout the union vote, Amazon took measures to block the vote such as holding spontaneous meetings during voting times and placing anti-union posters in break rooms and bathrooms.
Amazon workers are hopeful that their attempts to form a union will pay off — and with the national attention and recognition the Bessemer workers are receiving, it is likely that the vote for an Amazon union will take place again if today’s attempt fails. In particular, Vermont Senator and Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee Bernie Sanders, along with Danny Glover and Atlanta rapper Killer Mike are all demonstrating support for the Bessemer workers by attending a final rally to drive votes for the cause. Workers are hopeful that the momentum provided by their support will produce enough votes to form a union — if not, other Amazon facilities are likely to follow suit with their own pushes to form a union, motivated by the public support of high-profile figures.
While the Bessemer warehouse showcases the first attempt by Amazon workers to form a union, these workers only form a small fraction of the overall Amazon workforce in the United States. Amazon employees at other facilities are closely watching the vote in Alabama with a similar disdain for policies and rules that contribute to unsafe working conditions, especially during the Covid-19 Pandemic. At the forefront of the complaints brought forward by Amazon workers are longer breaks, safer work conditions, and higher compensation for the often long and difficult days that they need to work.
Following the final vote tally, it is likely that neither side will relent no matter the outcome of the vote. Amazon workers across the country consistently face poor work conditions, meaning that union attempts will likely continue in other Amazon facilities; however, due to costs and profit margins, Amazon is unlikely to willingly let a union form without at least slowing down the process, or ending it completely while drafting a union contract. Walmart took similar action to stop the formation of a union of butchers in 2000 by transitioning to prepackaged meat and eliminating the need for in-store butchers altogether.
Hopefully, as union efforts continue, Amazon will develop policies to improve working conditions for all of their employees.