Some 80 unionists and others turned out in Philadelphia Feb. 20 for a solidarity action with workers fighting for a union at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. Almost 6,000 workers there began voting Feb. 8 on whether the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union should represent them to help fight to improve wages and working conditions and defend their dignity on the job. Voting ends March 29.
“We have everything in common with the workers in Bessemer,” Adam Rizzo, a worker at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, told the crowd at the action. The museum workers recently voted by 89% to be represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, he said. “Like at Amazon, they tried to divide us, but we won!”
Also participating were members of the nurses union at Temple University Hospital. “Our struggles are connected,” said Marty Harrison, a representative of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals. The Amazon bosses time the workers on the assembly line down to the minute to squeeze every ounce of labor out of them, she said, but now “they take workers off the floor for mandatory anti-union meetings.”
The action was one of a number held as part of a national day of solidarity, one of which drew the largest number of workers.
In Atlanta, 75 people attended a rally, including students who were just learning about the union fight in Bessemer. Rachele Fruit, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor, and Sam Manuel, SWP candidate for City Council president, were among those who took part. They met Wyatt Schroeder, an art student at Georgia State University, who told them, “I first got active last summer in the protests against the killing of George Floyd.”
“The civil rights movement brought workers together, not only breaking down segregated neighborhoods and schools but also segregation in the workplace,” Manuel explained. “That intertwined history, with union coal mines and steel mills in that part of Alabama, is a big part of why the organizing drive is happening in Bessemer. The battle makes workers stronger, more confident.”