Inspired by the ongoing unionization vote at an Amazon fulfillment in Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse workers at other fulfillment centers around the country are exploring ways to form unions, according to Bloomberg.
As the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) leads the push to unionize workers at Bessemer, with a final vote ending on Mar. 29, the Teamsters are taking unionization outside Amazon’s warehouses to delivery drivers, where many of these people are underpaid compared to their unionized counterparts.
Amazon employees in Baltimore, New Orleans, Portland, Denver, and Southern California have begun examining ways to form unions at their respective warehouses.
A warehouse worker in Portland, Oregon, who has been discussing unionization with colleagues, told Bloomberg:
“I feel as though helping create a union at Amazon is something I could be meant for,” said the worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Without collective bargaining, nobody on this planet wins except for billionaires with lobbyists.”
A warehouse worker in New Orleans drove to Bessemer last month to support and chat with pro-union employees and leaders at a rally. He said Bessemer is creating a blueprint to unionize that colleagues around the country can easily follow.
“If the most powerful company in the world can be unionized in an anti-union state like Alabama, it gives hope to people in Louisiana, in Mississippi, in West Virginia who are trying to do the same thing,” he said. “We just have to support the fight wherever it’s at because the fight is going to come to us.”
The political climate under the Biden administration has made workers’ rights more favorable than ever before. President Biden weighed in on the Bessemer vote earlier this month, putting his support behind employees.
Full video from President Biden on the unionization effort at Amazon in Alabama. pic.twitter.com/AsQLu0y8vm
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) March 1, 2021
However, Amazon has spent the last two decades stomping out any attempt for workers inside its company to unionize. It has waged a fierce war against unions, especially RWDSU in Bessemer.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has been recruiting Amazon delivery drivers at various warehouse facilities across the US to educate drivers how their jobs are part-time and should be considered full-time. They said union warehouse and trucking jobs pay much higher and offer better benefits than Amazon. Teamsters say Amazon is eroding wages and doesn’t provide a path to a sustainable middle-class life.
“The message we’re hoping will resonate is, ‘You can’t treat people like this in this industry,'” said Randy Korgan, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 1932 in San Bernardino, where the union is in communication with Amazon workers.
“If Amazon was paying such a good wage, people wouldn’t be moving on and going to the next job. They’re just burning through the workforce and they’re going to continue to burn through the workforce,” said Korgan.
The calls to unionize Amazon comes as the fall of private-sector unions in the US has reached 100-year lows.
A half-century of plunging union membership has resulted in depressed wages or as shown in the chart below, the share of income is not equally shared with all in society. Hence, one reason for exploding wealth inequality between the bottom 90% of Americans versus the top 10%.
Comparing US union membership with other countries reveals the US ranks on the lower end of the list.
All eyes on Bessemer vote at the end of the month, which could set precedence and ignite unionization movements across other Amazon warehouses.
… and looking ahead, if unions were to be revived in the early 2020s, they would certainly push for high salaries, better working conditions, and other benefits – something the American worker has been missing for decades.