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Amazon workers in Alabama get second chance at unionization vote

A RWDSU worker holds a sign. (Photo by /Getty Images)
By AFSCME Staff ·

AFSCME fully supports Amazon workers in Bessemer, Ala., who are getting a second chance at voting to form their own union after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) this week said their employer improperly interfered in the union election held earlier this year.

Amazon “essentially highjacked the [union election] process and gave a strong impression that it controlled the process,” said the NLRB official who issued the decision to grant the workers a revote. Among other things, Amazon placed a U.S. Postal Service mailbox in front of the warehouse after voting began, a move that likely discouraged many workers from casting their ballots.

Stuart Appelbaum – president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which had been organizing the workers at the Bessemer warehouse – welcomed the NLRB’s decision.

“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace and as the [NLRB] Regional Director has indicated, that is both unacceptable and illegal,” he said in a statement. “Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union.”

The Amazon workers’ second chance at voting comes as a wave of worker activism is sweeping the nation and American workers from all walks of life are waking up to the difference a union makes.

In industries from health care to manufacturing to entertainment, workers are raising their voices to demand better wages and working conditions. That includes a strike by more than 10,000 workers for the manufacturing company John Deere that lasted over a month, and the ongoing strike by 1,400 Kellogg’s workers in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Last month, some 32,000 health care workers in California and Oregon who are members of the AFSCME-affiliated United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) notified their employer, Kaiser Permanente, that they were preparing to strike. They ultimately reached an agreement that met their demands for fair wages and proper staffing conditions, among other things.

But it’s not just workers who belong to a strong union that appreciate the power of a voice on the job. According to the latest Gallup poll on union popularity, released in September, more than two-thirds of Americans, 68%, approve of labor unions. That’s the highest union approval rating since 1965.

It’s clear that we must make it easier – not harder – for workers to form strong unions, and the NLRB decision to grant Amazon workers a second vote is indicative of a Biden administration that gets it. Yet more needs to be done.

Congress must approve the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would strengthen federal labor law to give private-sector workers better protections against their employer when organizing to form their own union. And it must pass the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which would set a minimum nationwide standard of collective bargaining rights that states must provide public service workers.

AFSCME was a strong supporter of Amazon workers in Bessemer when they held their first union election earlier this year, and we will be right behind them again the second time around.

As AFSCME President Lee Saunders put it back in March, less than a week before the vote ended, “The choice to unionize belongs to workers and workers alone – free of coercion, free of intimidation, and free from retaliation. … I promise you that AFSCME stands with you every single day, we stand with you in this struggle for labor rights, civil rights, and human rights.”

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