(Washington, D.C., April 5, 2021)—Today, the AFL-CIO and GBAO released a nationwide poll of registered voters that found more than three-quarters of Americans support workers’ efforts to organize a union at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. The findings come days after voting closed in the organizing drive and demonstrate a significant rise in public support. In February, Data for Progress found that 69% of likely voters supported the unionization effort. “In every corner of the country, working people are crying out for change,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “We aren’t just bearing the brunt of this pandemic. For decades, we’ve been bled dry by a rigged, corporate-first economy. Amazon workers in Bessemer are tearing down that system, and America is standing with them.” “This is what solidarity looks like,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “America is standing shoulder to shoulder with Amazon workers in Bessemer. People across the country and of all backgrounds recognize the systematic injustice that Amazon is inflicting on its own workers. This fight is universal—it’s a struggle for the fundamental rights and dignities that all working people deserve.” The nationwide poll surveyed 600 registered voters from March 28–30. The survey carries a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Q: As you may know, some workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama are proposing to form a union to negotiate with the company on working conditions. Do you support or oppose these Amazon workers forming a union to negotiate on working conditions? AFL-CIO CONTACT: John Weber, 202-637-5018 or firstname.lastname@example.org RWDSU CONTACT: Chelsea Connor, 347-866-6259 or email@example.com
By Brian Freeman
President Joe Biden on Sunday expressed his backing for union efforts by Amazon workers in Alabama.
“Workers in Alabama – and all across America — are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace. It’s a vitally important choice — one that should be made without intimidation or threats by employers,” Biden wrote on Twitter. “Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union.”
His tweet included a video in which he addressed the workers involved, emphasizing that the choice whether or not to organize was theirs and that there should be “no coercion” by the company.
“I have long said America wasn’t built by Wall Street,” Biden said. “It was built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class. Throughout his political career, Biden has sought to project an image as a friend of organized labor, according to Politico.
However, he has largely not been involved in attempts to organize Amazon’s employees at a location in Bessemer, Alabama, where some 6,000 workers work. Ballots were sent out to workers at the plant on February 8. Responses must be received by March 29th by the National Labor Relations Board, with counting starting the next day, NBC News reported.
Vice reported that Amazon has taken steps to convince workers to reject the union, including sending out pamphlets encouraging them to vote against organizing. Other attempts by Amazon to convince workers not to unionize has been holding mandatory meetings and establishing a website encouraging employees to “do it without dues.”
Amazon has also placed anti-union posters and messages in restrooms used by the workers.
Workers report inhumane working conditions in the sprawling Bessemer warehouse, where their every movement is monitored by the same computers that direct them to pick up products to fill orders. The workers say that the company discourages restroom breaks and send them complaint notices if they take too long to do their jobs.
If the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union (RWDSU) is successful in winning this election, it will be the first Amazon facility to unionize in the United States. There are 6,000 workers at the Bessemer plant who are eligible to vote.
Biden’s statement is an important indication of his support for unions and willingness to publically address this sensitive issue
Between Feb 8, and March 29, approximately 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama will begin voting by mail on whether to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale Department Store Workers Union (RWDSU).
The Southern Workers Assembly has issued a call for a National Day of Solidarity with Alabama Amazon Workers on Saturday, February 20. Actions are being planned across the South and the U.S. on that day at Amazon facilities (warehouses, distribution centers, Whole Foods, etc.). There is a demonstration planned at the Whole Foods Store at 1450 Taylor Road, near Eastchase Shopping Center in Montgomery, Alabama, at Noon on Saturday February 20th.
The harsh working conditions at Amazon warehouses, along with Amazon’s refusal to adopt measures that protect workers from COVID 19, have pushed Amazon and Whole Foods workers every- where to step up organizing and fighting back.
These predominantly Black workers who have in recent months formed the BAmazon Workers Union (www.bamazonunion.org), are on the cusp of launching a history-changing workers organization against one of the biggest and most powerful transnational corporations in the world, and its super rich union busting owner, Jeff Bezos.
In addition, these workers are standing up to the racist, anti-union laws that suppress labor across the South. Bessemer is a majority Black city in the Birmingham metro area.
Many of the workers at Bessemer warehouse are Black and the city has a history of labor union support dating back to the 1930’s when the CIO was organizing coal miners and steel workers in and around Birmingham.
Solidarity from every corner of the labor and progressive movements is needed now to show the workers in Bessemer that they are not alone, that all eyes are on the historic struggle that they are leading. This is especially needed as Amazon ramps up their union-busting tactics.
“The union struggle in Bessemer is not only about worker rights, wages and working conditions but also about civil rights, human rights and dignity for Black workers and all workers for large multi-national companies that are trying to dominate and control the lives of people,” said Mike Foster, union organizer.
The Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) is supporting and co-sponsoring Saturday’s solidarity protest at Whole Foods in Montgomery and encourages its members to attend.