Thursday, May 6, 2021

Why Amazon workers sided with more than one union company


When Graham Brooks received his ballot in early February, he did not hesitate when asked if he wanted to form a union at the Amazon warehouse in Alabama, where he works. He marked the NO box, and sent the ballot inside.

After working as a newspaper reporter for nearly six years, Mr. Brooks, 29, earns $ 1.55 more an hour at Amazon, and is optimistic he can move on.

“I personally did not see the need for a union,” he said. “If I was being treated differently, I might have voted differently.”

Mr. Brooks is one of about 1,800 employees who gave Amazon a fierce victory in the company’s toughest fight to keep unions out of their warehouses. The result – announced last week, with 738 workers voting to form a union – gave Labor and Democrats a crushing blow when conditions were revealed to make them advance.

For some warehouse workers, like Mr. Brooks, the minimum wage is more than $ 15 an hour, which he had done in previous jobs and provided a powerful impetus with the company. Amazon’s health insurance, which kills the first day of employment, also encouraged loyalty, workers said.

Carla Johnson, 44, said she learned she had brain cancer just a few months after starting work at the warehouse last year in Bessemer, Ala. Amazon’s health care covered his treatment.

Ms. Johnson said at a press event that Amazon held after the vote, “I was able to come to Day 1 with benefits, and that could make a difference in life or death.”

Patricia Rivera, who worked at the Bessemer warehouse from January to January, said that many of her co-workers, aged 20 or younger, had opposed the union because they felt pressured by Amazon’s anti-union campaign and felt that the pay And the benefits are tangible.

“For a younger person, this is the most money ever,” Ms. Rivera said, “I give them credit. They get you started and you get insurance immediately. “

Ms. Rivera left Amazon because she felt she was not compensated on time because she had to leave after being exposed to Kovid-19 at work.

“We are not perfect, but we are proud of our team and what we offer, and will continue to work to do better every day,” Amazon said in a post-election statement.

Other workers interviewed said that they or their co-workers did not trust the unions or trusted Amazon’s anti-union message that workers could change the company from within. Often, explaining his position, he echoed the pleas that Amazon made at mandatory meetings where it insisted on its pay, doubting what a union could guarantee and saying that workers would Unionization may reduce profits.

When a union representative told her about the vote, Ms. Johnson said, she could not answer a clear question about what the union could promise.

“He hung up on me,” he said. “If you try to sell me something, I should be able to sell you that product.”

59-year-old Danny Afford said he took every opportunity to tell colleagues at the warehouse that they strongly opposed the union, arguing that it would not improve their situation. He said that he had told colleagues how the Sangh disappointed him when he lost his job in the postal service a year ago.

His job, which included ordering cardboard, tape and other supplies, did not make him eligible to ballot. But when the company offered the “VOTE NO” pin, it gladly put one on its safety vest.

“He said the job of the union is not to keep you – it’s to keep everyone,” he said as he told colleagues. “If you’re looking for personal help, it won’t be.”

Jesse Thompson, 43, said he considers a commitment by management to improve the workplace over the next 100 days, a promise made during the company’s campaign. He included Amazon among other anti-union activists to advance better train employees and educate managers on anti-bias techniques.

“We’re going to do everything we can to address those issues,” Mr. Thompson said. He appeared in the Amazon event with Amazon Johnson.

Pastor George Matthews of New Life Interfaith Ministries said that many members of his congregation worked in the warehouse just a short distance away, and expressed gratitude for the job. But he was still surprised and disappointed that More did not vote to form a union, even in the traditionally anti-Union South, given how hard he worked.

Talking with the congregations, Mr. Matthews said, he became confident that the activists were afraid to be too afraid and to risk what they had.

“You don’t want to turn on the proverbial apple cart because those apples are sweet – bigger than my earlier apples – so you don’t mess with it,” he said.

Alex Colvin, dean of Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said that with its mandatory meetings and frequent messaging, Amazon used its advantages to drive a more successful campaign from the union.

“We know that campaigns change the situation,” he said.

Retail Workers Union President Stuart Appelbaum, who led the organizing effort, cited several factors to explain the damage beyond Amazon’s anti-union efforts.

He pointed to a high rate of turnover among employees, estimating that up to 25 percent of Amazon workers who would be eligible to vote in early January had left by the end of the vote in late March – presumably the company. Over the entire margin of victory. Mr. Appelbaum said that those who survived were more likely to support the union because they were generally less satisfied with their jobs.

Mr. Brooks said that last Friday, he saw eight or 10 new faces in the area where he worked.

“I was told they were Day 3 employees,” he said, “and I paid some more attention today.”

Many workers in the warehouse have complaints about Amazon wanting to monitor fewer hours or fewer production. Mr. Brooks and others said they wanted their 10-hour shift to have a break period of more than 30 minutes because in the spacious warehouse, they could spend almost half their time from lunch and walking.

Voting for the vote was low, at only half of all eligible workers, suggesting that neither Amazon nor the union had excessive support.

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said on Thursday Annual letter For investors that results in Bessemer did not bring him “comfort”.

“It is clear to me that we need a better vision to create value for employees – a vision for their success.”

Michael Corkery Contributed to reporting.



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