ATLANTA — “I have two grandsons who work at Amazon in Bessemer,” retired coal miner and United Mine Workers union member Maxwell Wilson told the Militant March 14, from his home in Midfield, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. “This is their first full-time job and I’ve tried to educate them about why it’s better to have a union. All workers need that protection. They told me they sent in their ‘yes’ votes.”
Discussions like this are taking place throughout north central Alabama and beyond, as workers at the Bessemer warehouse head into the final two weeks of a union authorization vote.
The warehouse workers are fighting to win recognition for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to strengthen their ability to improve working conditions and wages and defend their dignity on the job. Some 5,800 workers are eligible to vote.
The company has been working hard to cajole or intimidate workers into voting “no.” The vote, which is being conducted by mail-in ballot, ends March 29.
The fulfillment center in Bessemer opened last March. When union supporters began circulating cards for the RWDSU last fall, they gathered hundreds of signatures in just a few months, winning a decision by the National Labor Relations Board authorizing the election.
Hundreds of thousands of other Amazon workers are watching the outcome, as are Walmart and Target workers and millions of others who face similar — or worse — conditions. More than 1,000 workers at other Amazon facilities have contacted the RWDSU about unionizing their workplaces in recent weeks, reported the March 9 Washington Post.
The Bamazonunion.org website, which carries news about the drive, features statements of support from union officials from Peru, Japan and elsewhere.
Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida, a Republican, backed the Amazon workers in a USA Today opinion piece March 12.
Elsewhere some 8,500 workers at Amazon warehouses in Italy will walk off the job for 24 hours in the first company-wide stoppage there March 22. Their unions are requesting the company review its plans for workloads, shifts and bonuses.
The Bessemer union drive has won support from area unions and more solidarity is needed. Let your union, church, or community organization know what the workers are fighting for. Messages of support can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.