This article is dedicated to AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who passed away Thursday of a heart attack.
Amazon being the nation’s second-largest employer, many regarded its Bessemer, Alabama plant employees’ attempt to unionize in April a watershed moment.
Yet, the results were disappointingly predictable: workers voted 2-1 against forming a union.
Or did they?
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the auspices under which Amazon‘s union would lie, should unionization occur, states earlier this year the internet retail giant illegally threatened to reduce staff benefits and compromised the election’s integrity by placing a secure ballot collection box outside the warehouse within sight of warehouse cameras, leading voters to believe they were under surveillance, a U.S. labor law violation.
NLRB hearing officer Kerstin Meyers explained:
“It is clear that the sole reason the Employer sought to have a mailbox installed was the possibility that the Acting Regional Director would order a mail ballot election.”
Amazon management also disseminated “vote no” propaganda among senior staff.
An NLRB regional director will decide in the coming weeks whether to order the re-vote based on the board’s recommendation.
As history shows, wealthy corporations have vested interests in maintaining their fiefdoms where employees are wholly subservient to undemocratic policies, practices, and conditions.
Amazon employees are integral to that American struggle.
Bessemer warehouse employees, many of whom complain of “grueling” 14-hour workdays with only two 30-minute breaks, want Amazon to afford more break time.
Complaints about not permitting bathroom breaks abound.
Workers feel Amazon betrayed them for not providing better protection from the Covid-19 pandemic.
As any other multi-national corporation terrified of democracy, Amazon retaliated against the unionization attempt with $10,000-per-day anti-union measures, including contracting with one of the largest and most expensive union-avoidance law firms, anti-labor consultants, and law enforcement to intimidate workers, union advocates, and the press.
Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth increased nearly $65 billion the past year during the pandemic.
With a net worth of $209.2 billion, Forbes magazine lists him as the richest person in the world.
Bezos (who also owns Whole Foods and the Washington Post) is one of two billionaires whose wealth grew an average of $42 billion each week—$7.4 million every hour–the pandemic bared down on us, more than $700 billion total since last March.
While he and Amazon management sabotage their workers’ unionization efforts for better conditions and pay, Bezos made headlines last month when he launched himself into space in his rocket “Blue Origin,” for which Mass. Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted:
The richest guy on Earth can launch himself into space while over half the country lives paycheck to paycheck, nearly 43 million are saddled with student debt, and child care costs force millions out of work. He can afford to pitch in so everyone else gets a chance.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) July 25, 2021
Jeff Bezos will still be the richest person in the world even if his employees unionize.
It’s not about money.
It’s never about money.
It is and has always been about power.
Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, & Third Wednesday. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, Liberal Nation Rising, and Medium.