Amazon to face US union push in year ahead

Amazon

In 2021, Amazon.com Inc is poised to confront a renewed challenge from groups it has long countered: the unions.

Energized by protests at Amazon’s US warehouses along with a more labor-friendly administration assuming office, unions are campaigning at the world’s largest online retailer to determine if its warehouse or supermarket employees would like to join their ranks.

A major test is expected early next year when workers at the same warehouse decide whether to unionize. The business has not faced a union election in the United States since 2014, and a “yes” vote could be the first for a US Amazon facility.

Amazon, America’s second-biggest private employer behind Walmart Inc, has told workers it already gives the pay and benefits unions promise, and it has trained managers to spot organizing activity. Its performance in France delivers a picture of exactly what the company might avoid: strong unions there precipitated a month-long closing of its own warehouses this past year.

The forthcoming vote is for partners in Amazon’s fulfilment center in Bessemer, Alabama; they’ll weigh whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The organizing committee has established a social networking campaign, shared union authorization cards and gathered enough to hold the election.

This week and last, the RWDSU and Amazon negotiated the election terms. By Tuesday they agreed to have seasonal workers in the bargaining unit, in addition to process supporters, whose addition the union had questioned to their supervisory authority, according to the election hearings presided by a government labour board. That board will set the date.

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The bigger the bargaining unit’s size – currently predicted to be over 5,700 – the more votes the marriage needs to win.

In a statement, Amazon stated, “We don’t believe this group represents the majority of our employees’ views. Our employees choose to work at Amazon because we provide some of the best jobs available anyplace we employ.”

Union membership has fallen to 10% of the eligible workforce in 2019 from 20% in 1983, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January.

VOTE ‘WOULD PASS’

Amazon workers are organizing elsewhere, too. Alexander Collias, a cashier for Amazon’s subsidiary Whole Foods, said he has been participating in walkouts because the pandemic has put workers’ health in danger and he asserts management has narrowed off others worries.

“We’re definitely extremely pro-union,” he explained of the Whole Foods store in Portland. “If we had a vote today, I think it would pass.”

Courtenay Brown, a process assistant at an Amazon warehouse in New Jersey, said work has increased 10-fold within her building during the pandemic, and co-workers have fallen sick. So she’s begun circulating work-related petitions via Facebook.

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“We need to be able to have a voice,” said Brown, 30, adding she was neutral in regards to the impact a union could have at her centre.

Reuters premiered to Brown and Collias via pro-labour groups campaigning at Amazon. One of them was Whole Worker, a group of current and former Whole Foods staff seeking to organize the grocery store chain.

Its strategy is to focus outreach and actions at the half dozen Whole Foods stores, such as in Portland and Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, in which it has secured bulk personnel service, stated Katie Doan, one of the band’s directors.

“We’d rather focus on little stores here and there who are for sure going to fully unionize, rather than fail nationally,” said Doan, who worked for Whole Foods in California until earlier this season.

Likewise, representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers International have achieved to discuss unionization, hazard pay and other problems with Whole Foods personnel, based on interviews and copies of the communication shared with Reuters.

Seattle-area unions are meeting Amazon tech employees, also, their coalition leader said. One neighbourhood is supporting corporate whistle-blowers whom Amazon fired competition their termination for a breach of US labour law, as shown by a public record obtained by journalists at our partner news agency Reuters. Amazon said it supports employees’ right to criticize the company, but the employees in question violated internal policies.

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Labor advocates say the administration of President Joe Biden is poised to help with union efforts, making the US National Labor Relations Board less beholden to corporate interests and supporting the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.

That bill passed the US House in February and would add penalties for companies that hinder organizing; Senate approval is far from guaranteed. Its passage would help level the playing field for workers, said Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU president whose Mid-South Council is behind the Alabama union drive.

“With a change in government, Amazon employees are going to have a much greater chance of coming together,” he explained.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco. Editing by Aurora Ellis.

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