Amazon's union fight: Here's what's happening now
The company and its workers have been at odds for years, and things are only getting more tense.
Co-byline with Nat Rubio-Licht
Amazon warehouse employees have tried to unionize for years. So far, it hasn't worked.
There’s a reason why many experts consider this union fight particularly important: The e-commerce giant is the second-largest employer in the U.S. with more than 950,000 employees nationally. Reports of Amazon’s mistreatment of workers have continued to surface, but no efforts to form unions have been successful, with Amazon allegedly quashing several attempts at organizing so far.
But as momentum to unionize grows across tech, even more Americans are watching what happens with Amazon than before. The unionization fight in Bessemer, Alabama has been considered a bellwether by economists, academics and organizers nationwide for how labor rights are evolving in the ecommerce-driven economy. Even after the initial vote came down against the formation of a union, the effort in Bessemer continues. And it's picking up elsewhere, too.
The fight to unionize an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama seems unending. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union filed more charges alleging Amazon is interfering with its union election — again. This means the fight to unionize will likely continue after the results are tallied for the facility’s second election, which began on Feb. 4.
Workers at two separate Amazon warehouses in Staten Island have filed petitions to hold a union vote. The JFK8 facility will be the first of the two to vote, hosting its election from March 25 to March 30 in a tent outside the warehouse.
Even after they lost the Bessemer vote, pro-union organizers didn't stop. Some experts encouraged Bessemer workers to form a minority union, while other Amazon facilities looked to stage their own union drives. And organizers across the country have worked to pass the PRO Act, which would strengthen unions nationally.
The NLRB has long been at odds with Amazon. It reached a settlement with the company that enables the NLRB to investigate and sue Amazon faster and easier if it is found to be using unfair labor practices. A month after that, the NLRB filed a complaint alleging Amazon threatened, interrogated and surveilled workers in Staten Island.
2021 was a huge year for worker power, and not just at Amazon. CODE-CWA has attempted (and in some cases, succeeded) to unionize tech workers at Alphabet, Activision Blizzard, and Glitch. Additionally, workers in many sectors were asking for pay raises and benefits adjustments amidst a nationwide labor shortage last year, and tech employees in particular gave their bosses a run for their money.
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