Amazon workers at a warehouse in southeastern Alabama began voting on Monday to decide whether they want union representation, but the e-commerce giant tries to discourage them to vote “yes”.
“We do not have meetings to find out how we are going with the pandemic, but we have mandatory meetings to explain to us how bad the unions are for us and for the company”, indignant Joseph Jones, a worker part-time interviewed by AFP.
The approximately 5,800 employees of the Bessemer warehouse are called upon to send their ballot by post by March 29, after months of mobilization of certain employees to organize this poll.
If unionization wins, it would potentially pave the way for hundreds of thousands of American workers in the tech group whose importance and power have been heightened by the pandemic, which has increased the reliance on product orders and services. cloud (remote computing).
Amazon is the second largest employer in the United States, with 800,000 people, mostly workers and technicians in its logistics centers.
So far, attempts to organize in warehouses have failed.
The Seattle group does not officially oppose unions, but campaigns against them. In Bessemer’s case, posters in the washrooms and a website called “DoItWithoutDues” encourage employees not to join a potential union.
“Why pay 500 dollars in membership fees? We take care of you with high salaries, health insurance, optical and dental benefits as well as a safety committee and recourse process, ”claims the homepage.
“In the meetings, they tell us that they have done research, that unions spend so much on company vehicles, that they spend the money frivolously and that these are business! As if Amazon were a charity … ”says Jones.
“It’s kind of like an abusive relationship, where the abuser would say ‘I’m sorry, I’m going to do better, no one is perfect, we don’t need a third party to come between us.’
This 35-year-old worker hopes that the pro-unions will prevail so that employees have a “voice in the chapter” and “negotiating power” on working conditions, “as in the European Union”.
The company recalls, however, that it pays its employees more than double the minimum wage in Alabama.
“We opened this site in March 2020 and since then we have created more than 5,000 full-time jobs at Bessemer with salaries starting at $ 15.30 an hour,” said Heather Knox, a spokesperson for the group. , last week.
“We work hard to support our teams, and over 90% of our Bessemer people say they would recommend Amazon as a place to work to their friends,” she added.
Supported by Bernie
If the majority of employees vote in favor of unionization, they will automatically be represented by the RWDSU distribution union, but will not become full members until a new, negotiated works contract is approved. between the union and the company.
The group of Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world neck and neck with entrepreneur Elon Musk, had decided a minimum wage of 15 dollars per hour for all its employees in the United States, a measure then welcomed by the government and unions, after months of criticism and political pressure.
“To me, it proves they can afford it and it shows the power of collective bargaining,” Jones commented.
Several small-scale demonstrations and strikes were organized at the start of the pandemic to demand better health protection and financial compensation.
On Tuesday, Amazon agreed to pay $ 61.7 million to end a lawsuit in a case of unpaid tips to independent delivery people.
“We cannot overemphasize the importance of the formation of a union by Amazon workers in Alabama,” tweeted former Democratic nomination contestant Bernie Sanders on Saturday.
“They face powerful anti-union forces in an anti-union state, but their victory will benefit all workers in the United States. I am proud to be by their side, ”he added.