New York About 6,000 employees at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, decide whether they want to form a union in the largest job campaign in the history of the online shopping giant.
Much is at stake for Amazon. A union at Bessemer could trigger a chain reaction throughout its US operations if more employees decided to stand up and demand better working conditions. Meanwhile, workers’ rights advocates hope the situation in Bicemer will inspire workers not just in Amazon to create a union.
However, the organizers face an uphill battle. Amazon, the country’s second-largest private employer, has a history of cracking down on attempts to form unions in its warehouses and supermarket chain Whole Foods.
Workers in Pesmir have until Monday to vote. The majority of voters must vote “Yes” in order to create a union.
Here are details about this process:
What do organizers want?
In addition to better wages, they want Amazon to give warehouse workers more breaks and a better deal. Many complain about their grueling 10-hour work shift with only a 30-minute break. Most of the time workers stand on their feet, packing boxes, shelving products, or unloading items that arrive on trucks.
A Bessemer employee, who recently testified at a Senate hearing, described the work as “stressful” and noted that employees are tracked throughout the workday and can be punished or fired for a longer vacation.
In its job ads, Amazon describes working in its warehouse as “fast-paced and physical work that keeps you on the road.”
What is Amazon’s response?
Amazon says warehouses create thousands of jobs at an average wage of $ 15.30 an hour, more than twice the Alabama minimum wage. Workers also enjoy benefits that include health, vision and dental insurance without paying union dues, according to the company.
Amazon is pressuring workers to vote against the union. At a Senate hearing, a worker testified that the company had posted anti-union posters all over the warehouse in Bessemer, including inside the restrooms, and had also identified mandatory worker meetings about why setting up a union was a bad idea. A website has also been created for employees to direct them to pay $ 500 in union dues per month, money they can use to cover food and school expenses.
However, Alabama is a state with “right to work” laws, which allow workers in union corporations to choose not to pay union dues and to retain benefits and protections that unions negotiate.
What happens if workers agree to union?
Amazon will need to start negotiating a contract with the New York Retail, Wholesale and Store Consortium, which is leading efforts to unite warehouse personnel in Bismar and represent 100,000 workers in poultry factories and industrial facilities. Bottling of grains and soft drinks and retailers such as Macy’s and H&M.
But Amazon can stop contract negotiations and both parties can take legal action, which could delay the process.
A guild win in Bessemer does not automatically mean that guilds win at the 230+ Amazon warehouses nationwide. Every warehouse that wants to create a union will have to go through a similar process.