Lawmakers Show Solidarity Over Amazon Union Vote In Alabama


Demonstration organized by the Workers Assembly Against Racism in support of the rights of Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama to unionize in Union Square in front of the Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market.

Lev Radin | LightRocket | fake images

A group of Democratic members of Congress traveled to an Amazon warehouse in Alabama on Friday to show their support for workers in the midst of a closely watched union vote.

Legislators visiting Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama facility included Representatives Andy Levin from Michigan, Jamaal Bowman from New York, Cori Bush from Missouri, Terri Sewell from Alabama and Nikema Williams from Georgia. Lawmakers met with some workers at the facility, known as BHM1, before heading to the warehouse.

“I want Amazon workers across the country to pay attention because you should be doing the same in your workplace,” Bowman said Friday at a news conference in front of the RWDSU Mid-South Council union hall in Birmingham. Alabama. “And we won’t stop with Amazon. This is Lyft, this is Uber, this is Walmart, this is Tesla – all the companies in this country that continue to be abusive and provide terrible working conditions for workers, we stand with you.”

At the news conference, Bowman said the union campaign in Alabama demonstrates the need for better protections for workers at Amazon and other companies in the United States. He described the work environment at Amazon as a “culture of abuse” and surveillance.

“If workers step out of line, they get some kind of demerit, and if they accumulate enough demerits, then they get fired from their job,” Bowman said. “Are we dealing with machines or widgets, or are we dealing with human beings?”

Earlier this month, nearly 6,000 workers at the Bessmer facility began voting by mail on joining the Retail, Wholesale and Large Stores Union, kicking off the first major organizing effort within the company since 2014. Last November, workers at the Alabama facility notified the NLRB of their plans to hold a vote on whether they should be represented by the RWDSU.

The lawmakers’ show of support comes just days after President Joe Biden on Sunday expressed solidarity with Amazon workers trying to unionize the Bessemer facility and told them to “make your voice heard.” Biden did not name Amazon specifically, but did reference “workers in Alabama.”

Several workers from the Bessemer Amazon facility also attended the briefing. Kevin Jackson, a BHM1 employee, said the union campaign is about ensuring Amazon workers have “a place at the table like everyone else.”

“We are here to say that we are not going to be intimidated by anyone who tries to say that they are going to fire us, because of what we want,” Jackson said.

Amazon worker Kevin Jackson speaks on the steps of RWDSU Mid-South headquarters prior to a tour by a congressional delegation to a nearby Amazon plant to show support for workers who will vote on the possibility of unionizing, in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 5, 2021.

Dustin Chambers | Reuters

Amazon has previously said that it respects workers’ right to join a union, but also that its workers don’t need a union to come between them and the company. Amazon has made its position on the union campaign clear to workers at the Bessemer plant, holding mandatory meetings exposing the case against unionisation and creating a website urging workers to “do it without quotas. “.

In a statement, Amazon spokeswoman Heather Knox encouraged lawmakers to visit one of the company’s compliance centers to observe working conditions there.

“We expect these members of Congress to spend this same amount of energy raising the minimum wage to $ 15 per hour, as Amazon did for all of our employees in 2018,” Knox said in a statement. “We are proud to pay more than double the federal minimum wage, while offering comprehensive benefits, paid time off, and short- and long-term career growth, all in a safe and modern work environment.”

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