A majority of workers at Amazon‘s huge distribution center in Alabama have voted not to unionize, a major win for the company and a blow to Democrats and big labor.
With vote-counting by the National Labor Relations Board nearly complete on Friday, 1,798 warehouse workers rejected the union and 738 had voted in favor.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is organizing the Amazon workers in Bessemer, said that 3,215 votes were sent in — about 55% of the nearly 6,000 workers who were eligible. The union said it will file unfair labor practice charges against Amazon with the NLRB.
“We won’t rest until workers’ voices are heard fairly under the law,” said union President Stuart Applebaum.
Amazon has fought strenuously against the unionization effort, and the “no” vote could hamper other unionization efforts in the tech industry. The mail-in voting was held in March.
Liberal proponents from around the country including Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, had visited Alabama to support the unionization push.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka complained that Amazon engaged in “systematic bullying and intimidation” against its workers. He praised the workers who voted to unionize.
“They spoke out and shared a reality that too many working people recognize — the brutality of being underpaid, overworked and constantly afraid of what lies ahead,” Mr. Trumka said.
“America’s workers are pushing ourselves harder than ever, rewarded only with more insecurity and disrespect. Americans want to organize unions, and it should never be this hard to do so.”
Mr. Trumka said Amazon‘s “outrageous behavior is only the latest reminder that our rights have been steadily eroded by a handful of powerful elites.” He called on Congress to pass the PRO Act, which would invalidate state right-to-work laws and require workers to pay union dues to keep their jobs.
It was the biggest unionization push in Amazon‘s 26-year history and only the second time that such an effort had come to a vote.
At a time when the economy is still trying to recover and companies have been eliminating jobs, Amazon is one of the few places still hiring during the coronavirus pandemic, adding 500,000 workers last year alone.
But the pandemic also revealed inequities in the workforce, with many having to report to their jobs even while the coronavirus was raging, leading to concerns over health and safety.
The organizing efforts in Bessemer coincided with protests happening throughout the country after the police killing of George Floyd, raising awareness around racial injustice and further fueling frustration over how workers at the warehouse — more than 80% who are Black — are being treated, with 10-hour days of packing and loading boxes and only two 30-minute breaks.
Mr. Appelbaum struck a grim tone in a statement Thursday night as the initial results rolled in, signaling that the union will put up a legal fight if the vote doesn’t go its way.
“Our system is broken, Amazon took full advantage of that, and we will be calling on the labor board to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign,” he said, without specifying any allegations. “But make no mistake about it; this still represents an important moment for working people and their voices will be heard.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.