Amazon workers in Alabama rally for pro-union vote

By Susan Lamont
March 21, 2022

BESSEMER, Ala. — “It’s an atrocity that we, the laborers, generate 99% of the income, yet we get less than 1% of the cut,” Amazon worker Dale Wyatt told 150 unionists and others here Feb. 26. They had turned out to show solidarity with workers fighting for a union at the nearby Amazon fulfillment center. “I come here to say that now is the time for working people to stand together against the megarich, to make things better not only for ourselves, but for future generations to come.” 

Over 6,100 Amazon warehouse workers here are in the midst of a second vote to decide whether they can win union recognition by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Workers Union. 

The rally drew groups of unionists from around Alabama, including some 15 members of the United Mine Workers, who represented the 1,100 miners waging a hard-fought strike at Warrior Met Coal in nearby Brookwood. That strike entered its 12th month March 1. 

“The battle at Amazon needs to be won,” United Mine Workers International District 20 Vice President Larry Spencer told the crowd. “We hope every worker votes ‘yes’ for the union!” 

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler also brought greetings to the rally. 

Representatives from the United Steelworkers and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the RWDSU, and a group of nearly 20 Georgia unionists brought by the Atlanta Central Labor Council also participated. 

A small group of workers from the nonunion Hyundai auto assembly plant in Montgomery came with handmade signs to show support and to tell fellow workers about their own situation. 

“We need a union at Hyundai,” said Dee, who asked that her last name not be used. “I’ve worked at Hyundai for 17 years. We work for slave wages and in slave-like working conditions. It’s time for a change!” 

Several NAACP members from Athens, Alabama, also attended, including Leon Steele. “The NAACP has always supported labor and workers’ rights,” he said, recalling he was fired from a ConAgra plant in 1975 for participating in a union-organizing drive. 

Several Amazon workers told the Militant  the organizing drive is stronger this time than in the fall of 2020. Union volunteers are holding house meetings with Amazon workers to answer questions and seek their involvement, and helping workers be more outspoken at the “captive audience” in-house anti-union meetings Amazon forces workers to attend. Union supporters are also going into local neighborhoods to explain the stakes in the union drive. 

The National Labor Relations Board approved this second election earlier this year, after finding that the notoriously anti-union Amazon bosses had intimidated workers and corrupted the 2021 vote. Voting, which ends March 28, is now underway by mail-in ballot. 

The RWDSU lost the first election last April by a more than a 2-to-1 margin, with 738 votes for the union, 1,798 against, and 2,759 not voting. Nearly half of the workers at the warehouse have been hired since the first union vote. 

Lisa Potash and Valerie Edwards contributed to this article.