A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing counselor determined that Amazon substantially interfered with an organizing drive at its BHM1 processing center in Bessemer, Alabama, earlier this year. According to statements released by Amazon and the Retailers, Warehouses and Department Stores Union (RWDSU), the Federal Labor Council has recommended a new vote.
Last spring, the RWDSU campaign to be recognized as the bargaining representative of more than 5,800 Amazon warehouse workers suffered a massive defeat. Despite extensive media coverage and public support from national officials in the Democratic and Republican parties, including President Joseph Biden, only 738 Amazon workers voted in favor of RWDSU, or about 13 percent of the total membership.
The RWDSU appealed the vote, alleging that Amazon used manipulative tactics to interfere with the electoral process. Its main complaint is that Amazon ordered the installation of a mailbox on company property to collect votes. According to the RWDSU, this act gave the impression that the company would participate in the counting of the ballots.
According to NLRB official Kerstin Meyers, “the behavior of Amazon, which installed this generic mailbox, usurped the exclusive role of the National Labor Relations Board … in the administration of union elections.” The official said that “notwithstanding the substantial defeat of the union, the employer’s unilateral decision to create, for all intents and purposes, an on-site collection box for the NLRB ballots destroyed the laboratory conditions and warrants a second election. “
Amazon also held meetings with a captive audience and subjected workers to anti-union propaganda, which potentially tilted the outcome in the company’s favor, the NLRB agent said.
Even though Amazon management campaigned against RWDSU, the union was completely unable to garner substantial support from workers, despite widespread discontent over wages and working conditions. The Bessemer factory unionization campaign was a top-down operation involving bourgeois politicians from big business, celebrities and union bureaucrats. RWDSU officials made no demands to company management to improve conditions for the workers. Additionally, the long string of RWDSU betrayals at poultry factories in Alabama and Georgia, as well as Steelworkers, United Mine Workers and other unions in economically depressed Birmingham, has left workers completely alienated from propatronaux unions.
As might be expected, RWDSU Chairman Stuart Appelbaum welcomed the NLRB decision. “Throughout the NLRB hearing, we heard compelling evidence of how Amazon attempted to illegally interfere with and intimidate workers as they sought to exercise their right to form a union,” said Appelbaum, who has indicated his intention to relaunch the campaign.
The decision now rests with an adjudicator at the NLRB’s regional office in Atlanta, Georgia, who is expected to present his judgment in a few weeks. If the judge rules in favor of the RWDSU, a new election can then take place.
Contrary to RWDSU claims that it was the victim of a company assault, the organization actually enjoyed bipartisan support from some of the most powerful figures in the establishment and business in the United States. The RWDSU ran a promotional campaign for months that was publicly supported by Biden and Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, among others. In early March, the Democratic president recorded a video in which he declared that the vote in Alabama was “of vital importance.” Biden said that “the national labor relations law [de 1935] did not just say that unions had a right to exist. She says we should encourage unions ”.
Bessemer workers have rejected RWDSU, although opposition to the notoriously explorer giant Amazon is widespread. Warehouse workers spoke to the World Socialist Web Site harsh conditions in the warehouse, where workers faint at the warehouse due to exhaustion.
Bessemer workers are rightly suspicious of the RWDSU, which has refused to name a single condition it plans to improve. Even after a worker collapsed in the BHM1 factory and subsequently died, the RWDSU made no statements or claims, even after the union was contacted by WSWS reporters about the death.
Biden’s NLRB decision to intervene on behalf of the RWDSU and motivate a new vote has nothing to do with defending the democratic rights of Amazon workers. On the contrary, the US president seeks to elevate the propatronal RWDSU and other unions to contain the rise of class tensions in the United States and prevent an explosion of working class opposition to social inequalities, austerity and to the sacrifice of human life for the benefit of societies. These conditions, all of which have been accelerated by the global pandemic, are producing a growing wave of strikes and other struggles that threaten to escape the grip of the union bureaucracy.
In April, the White House announced the formation of a task force to help unions. According to a statement by a White House labor adviser, the goal of this committee is to “have more skilled and experienced workers” while avoiding “labor disputes.”
Even though Biden has publicly complained that Amazon is trampling on workers ‘rights – to help promote unions – the real Democrats’ attitude to corporate dictatorial powers was manifested last week in his public appearance in a Mack-Volvo assembly plant in Macungie, Pennsylvania. Biden posed for photoshoots alongside company executives and officials from the United Auto Workers union, who conspired to overturn the democratic decision by Volvo workers in Dublin, Va., To reject three tentative deals in the discounts backed by UAW. Biden hasn’t made a single criticism of the Swedish multinational, which unilaterally imposed its “last, best and ultimate” offer after workers voted to reject it, brought in strikebreakers for them. replace and threatened to destroy the strikers’ jobs. Rather than oppose this blatant violation of the right to strike, the UAW ordered workers to vote again on the same contract they had rejected and then claimed it passed by 17 votes.
In the unlikely event that RWDSU wins another vote in Bessemer, Amazon workers will find themselves in a two-pronged battle – against the company and the union – like Volvo workers in Virginia. That’s why Volvo workers formed their own grassroots workers committee to connect with workers at Mack Trucks, auto factories in Detroit and other cities, as well as Volvo workers in Belgium. and in other countries. Whether or not the RWDSU comes to the Bessemer warehouse, Amazon workers will need to create grassroots committees just as Volvo workers, Amazon workers in Baltimore and a growing number of workers in Baltimore have done. United States and around the world.
A worker at Amazon’s BWI2 plant in Baltimore and a member of the Amazon Workers’ Base Committee in Baltimore has expressed contempt for RWDSU’s efforts to re-run an election. He said the RWDSU was using “deceptive tactics” to “control the workers” at the company. The worker referred to an episode in the Volvo strike in which Amazon executives visited the Volvo site in New River Valley, which produces their delivery trucks, in order to end the struggle.
“They tried to intervene and influence the contract negotiations,” the worker said. Despite this, “Volvo workers voted against all three versions of the contract” presented to them. Despite this, “the UAW union, with the support of Volvo executives, ended up forcing them to accept a fraudulent and unreasonable contract.”
A recent statement from the Amazon Workers’ Grassroots Committee in Baltimore states: “What happens at Volvo affects what can happen in Amazon warehouses… The working class must respond with equal and opposing force to the efforts that aim to confine its struggles to a single workplace. The bosses want to contain these struggles locally? So we have to burst them into the global sphere ”.
(Article published in English on August 4, 2021)