Biden, other members of Congress join the fight for unionization at Amazon’s Bessemer warehouse
A Congressional delegation including Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Terri Sewell, Nikema Williams, and Andy Levin is visiting the warehouse on March 5.
Tensions are escalating between Amazon and its warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, as they continue their historic journey to become the first Amazon facility to unionize.
In the Summer of 2020, a group of Bessemer warehouse employees met with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) because of frustration over the grueling workload demands and the company’s inappropriate monitoring of employees.
In the past, all organized attempts of activism that arose within the corporation were quickly shut down. This time, however, the Bessemer employee’s efforts have caught the attention of many important public figures, and support continues to roll in.
We refuse to allow exploitative employers like Amazon to profit billions of dollars while working people struggle to make ends meet in a pandemic. The right to unionize for dignified jobs is the marker of a just economy.
From Arlington to Bessemer, a better world is possible: pic.twitter.com/qQBZUFV8cT
— Karishma Mehta for Virginia House of Delegates (@karishma4va) February 20, 2021
On Tuesday, Feb. 9, the day after the RWDSU sent ballots to 5,805 workers at the Bessemer facility, four state treasurers penned a letter to Amazon, urging it to address the growing concerns of their Bessemer employees and to honor its stated commitments to human rights principles.
One of the authors, State Treasurer Dave Young of Colorado, emphasized to AL DÍA that all workers matter, “whether they work at a meat-packing plant in Greeley, Colorado, or an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.”
“These workers, who were doing hard work with low pay BEFORE the pandemic, deserve adulation, not an anti-union campaign,” Young wrote.
Despite Amazon’s aggressive anti-union efforts, which have been increasing as of late, it seems that the union vote, which is scheduled to conclude on March 29, will be a groundbreaking “yes.”
In the beginning, Amazon attempted to subdue the movement by posting anti-union posters across the warehouse, next to hand sanitizing stations, and bathroom stalls.
It also sent out regular text messages and emails, pointing out all the flaws of unions, and set up a website asserting that employees already receive the pay and benefits that a union would bargain for, and urging them to vote “no” to avoid the cost of dues.
So far, these efforts have not stifled the movement for unionization, and the push from Bessemer warehouse workers have prompted several political leaders and activists to voice their support, adding fuel to the revolutionary fire.
Major national figures including @BernieSanders, @IlhanMN, @StaceyAbrams, and @MrDannyGlover are speaking out to support the @BAmazonUnion warehouse workers.
“That’s why we need you to vote yes.” pic.twitter.com/6NO0Haf0t7
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) February 24, 2021
Sen. Bernie Sanders showed his solidarity with the warehouse workers early in February.
“If they win, it will not only improve wages and working conditions in Bessemer, but it will also send a shockwave around the country,” he tweeted.
Later in the month, Georgia political leader, Stacey Abrams, joined in and posted a video to Twitter in support of the Bessemer employees, encouraging them to vote “yes.”
Award-winning actor Danny Glover, took it a step further and visited the Bessemer facility to speak in favor of the movement.
“MLK said the best anti poverty program he knows of is the union. That’s why I’m here,” he said.
Danny Glover down in Alabama standing with the Amazon workers to unionize pic.twitter.com/5DqNPHunaK
— Josh (@JoshuaOgundu) March 1, 2021
On Friday, March 5, even more leaders are stepping up to boost the movement. A congressional delegation is scheduled to meet with workers and organizers involved in the unionization efforts.
The Congress members taking the trip are Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Terri Sewell, Nikema Williams, and Andy Levin, among others.
— Lauren Kaori Gurley (@LaurenKGurley) March 1, 2021
While the support from these leaders is meaningful, it’s mostly unsurprising.
The voice of support that is most unexpected is that of President Joe Biden.
On Sunday, Feb. 28, President Biden posted a video to Twitter in which he supported the unionizing Amazon workers and earnestly denounced the anti-union efforts by employers.
“I made it clear during my campaign that my policy would be to support unions organizing and the right to collectively bargain,” Biden said. “I’m keeping that promise.”
It’s very rare for a sitting president to publicly support a union drive.
Erik Loomis, a history professor at the University of Rhode Island who studies labor rights, told Vox that Biden’s move is unprecedented in American history.
“Even FDR did not really intervene at the moment of a union election with a direct statement for a particular set of workers,” Loomis said.
Many labor advocates believe that Biden is following through on his promise to be “the most pro-union president.” His message may end up becoming the final boost needed to accumulate enough “yes” votes for the Bessemer facility to make history as the first Amazon warehouse to unionize.