Amazon is facing its largest unionization push in its entire history in regard to intense working guidelines and conditions set in place for its warehouse workers. Bessemer, Alabama is the newest epicenter for the union efforts – a place that’s not very friendly to unions because Alabama’s laws do not favor them.
The Amazon employees in Bessemer were fed up with the lack of break times and for the unreasonable expectations surrounding their breaks. Warehouse facilities are massive complexes, Amazon’s in particular. The half hour breaks allotted to employees are often eaten up just getting to and from the break area. If the employees are not back to their posts in a timely manner, Amazon could cut their pay or even fire them. It’s because of conditions like these that the workers in Bessemer reached out to the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store union last summer.
This union in particular has an office outside of Birmingham, Alabama which has been a major help in making headway for their efforts. Amazon has made efforts to block the vote, but mail-in voting has started this week despite those efforts. A majority of the 6,000 employees must vote “yes” in order for the unionization to take place.
There is reason to doubt the effort will succeed, largely because Alabama is a Republican-controlled, right-to-work state where workers don’t have to join unions in order to work. The union organizers in Bessemer have reason to believe that this time will be different, however. The pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have largely been working in their favor, as the pandemic creates harder working conditions, and the majority of the workers in Bessemer are black or people of color.
Amazon does not have a good history in responding well to unionization efforts, and the odds might not be in the workers favor, but there is still at least some hope that this time might just be the one that comes to fruition.