United States: Amazon employees in Alabama say no to the union

After months of fierce campaigning, workers at an Amazon warehouse in the southern United States finally voted against forming a union on Friday.

“We are disappointed, frustrated, angry […] because we were lied to and manipulated,” reacted Emmit Ashford, one of the employees at the Bessemer, Alabama site. “But it was a spark that lit a fire in the United States. »

Nearly 5,900 employees were called upon to vote by mail. The no to unionization won with 1,798 votes, against 738 votes in favor of RWDSU, the national distribution union that employees wanted to join.

“Amazon did not win, our employees chose to vote against the union,” reacted the group in a press release, sweeping away the accusations of intimidation. “Our employees have heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, elected officials and the media than they have heard from us. »

The RWDSU has promised to lodge a complaint with the federal labor law agency against the group, which it accuses of “illegal interference” in the vote. The result “is in no way a validation of working conditions at Amazon, on the contrary, it demonstrates the power of the employer and its power of intimidation and manipulation”, launched Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the union, during of a press conference.

waist supports

The union movement had won its first victory last year, gathering enough signatures to organize a vote in this warehouse in a poor town in Alabama, a conservative state in the southern United States, an a priori inauspicious scene. of this David versus Goliath effort.

In fact, Bessemer’s movement took on a national dimension. He saw opposing supporters of employees — artists, Democratic and Republican congressmen, and even the president Joe Biden — and the second largest employer in the United States (800,000 employees), whose business has prospered during the pandemic. The fortune of its founder, Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, is regularly singled out by those who criticize the company for its infernal work rates, the lack of time to go to the bathroom or to eat, or even insufficient salaries.

fear campaign

“How can billionaires tell us that 15 dollars [de l’heure], that’s enough ? protested Michael Foster, a trade unionist. The $15 per hour minimum (more than double the minimum wage in Alabama) and employee benefits, constitute the heart of the defense of the giant Amazon. “There are 40 million Americans who earn less […] and many others who do not have health coverage through their employer, and we believe that needs to change,” the Friday statement said.

The group has been making its case against unionization with text messages, posters and weekly warehouse briefings for months, brandishing the bogeyman of union dues and the risk of costly strikes. “I’m ecstatic,” said Dawn Hoag, a warehouse quality controller who says she “loves her job” and is relieved it’s “finally over.”

Amazon “made them think they had everything to lose,” said Rebecca Givan, professor of social relations at Rutgers University. “They hired the best anti-union lawyers in the country and relentlessly planted fear and uncertainty in the workforce. »

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