Workers at the new Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama are in the middle of a high-stakes union struggle with ramifications for the future of the labor movement in the United States. Currently, a union election is taking place at the Bessemer warehouse, where workers will decide whether to join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The Revolutionary Socialist Network (RSN) and its affiliate groups stand in solidarity with the workers in Alabama that are fighting to win a union and gain justice and dignity on the job. We stand in solidarity with all workers struggling to improve the lives of the working class.
Needless to say, Amazon doesn’t want its workers to win a union. To this end, the company has spent large sums of money to pay union-busting lawyers and advisers to help them carry out a campaign of anti-union propaganda and intimidation. The company knows that, with a union, workers can win concessions from management in terms of better wages, conditions, and workplace control. They also know that a win in Bessemer could be the spark that sets off a larger organizing drive nationwide.
Amazon has made a fortune on the back of its overworked employees. The company is booming. As noted by Al.org, in 2020, Amazon’s corporate revenue was up 38 percent as a result of an increase in orders related to the pandemic. Meanwhile, Amazon’s former CEO Jeff Bezos — the world’s second richest man — has added billions to his net worth since the start of the pandemic. According to a report by Oxfam, Bezos could afford to pay all Amazon “employees a one-off $105,000 bonus with the wealth he accumulated between March and August 2020 alone, and still be as wealthy as he was at the beginning of the pandemic.” Amazon wants to keep its workforce atomized, divided, and non-union in order to continue reaping these types of windfall profits on their backs.
Last fall, workers in Bessemer petitioned the RWDSU to back their union drive. Workers have criticized the company’s brutal workplace productivity demands and constant speed ups monitored by digital surveillance. They’ve also expressed grievances regarding Amazon’s automated disciplinary procedures, where workers can be penalized — and potentially fired — for failing to show up for mandatory overtime that’s assigned to them at the last minute via text message. On top of this, there is a racial justice dimension to the organizing drive in Bessemer. The majority of the Amazon workforce there is Black — and Bessemer is a majority Black town. By organizing collectively to fight for a better life, workers are taking the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement for justice and equality into the workplace.
Amazon is one of the largest employers in the United States. The company has massively expanded in recent years and currently has some 400,000 workers employed as operative staff at warehouses across the country. On top of this, Amazon is a key player in the logistics industry – which plays an increasingly central role in the functioning of the entire capitalist system.
Amazon workers have the power to win better conditions and a better life — and to advance the working-class movement in general — if they join together in solidarity!
The Revolutionary Socialist Network says: NO to Amazon’s anti-union intimidation campaign and YES to a future where rank-and-file Amazon workers have a democratic voice through a successful union vote!