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Supporters of Amazon's Union organizers, demonstrating in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: SouthernWorker.org
Supporters of Amazon's Union organizers, demonstrating in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: SouthernWorker.org

Black Lives Matter to stand in solidarity with Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer

A rally is being held in the Alabama town on Saturday, March 13 in support of the ground-breaking unionization efforts.

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On Saturday, March 13, the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) will be leading a solidarity caravan in Bessemer, Alabama to show their support in the final days of voting in the unionization effort at the Amazon warehouse in the area. 

Warehouse workers at the Amazon facility in Bessemer began communication with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) in the summer of 2020, and will officially vote on union formation on March 29.

If they successfully unionize, they will become the first U.S. Amazon warehouse to do so.

Stuart Applebaum, president of RWDSU, told Bloomberg that this summer’s nationwide BLM protests inspired the current unionization efforts at the Bessemer warehouse.

Black Americans make up about 85% of the workforce at the BHM1 facility in Bessemer, and BLM has taken a strong and active role in supporting the workers in their fight to bring the first union to an Amazon warehouse. It has also been collaborating with RWDSU organizers on the ground since the 2020 election cycle began.

As the caravan kicks off at 4:30 p.m., BLM leaders will speak on the injustices faced by the majority Black workforce, and how they have been treated as disposable and robbed of the dignity and respect they deserve as essential workers. 

The Birmingham BLM chapter will begin the caravan joined by several other groups, including NAACP, Poor People’s Campaign, Concerned Clergy and Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Community groups and unions from the surrounding area will also join RWDSU organizers for the caravan.

“Amazon workers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and especially the 85% of Black lives that go to that fulfillment center daily to work, but whose work is grossly undervalued. It’s our fight as a community of Black workers, it’s about us, and let us be clear, Black Lives Matter in Alabama,” said Eric Hall, co-founder of BLM Birmingham.

Politicians such as Rep. Ilhan Omar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and even President Joe Biden, have shown their solidarity for the Amazon workers. Actor Danny Glover recently made a visit to the site to speak in favor of the movement.

While the groundbreaking efforts of these warehouse workers have influenced several leaders and organizations to show their support, the retail giant appears to view unions as a threat.

As soon as Amazon leadership heard talk about unionization, they went to the ends of the Earth in attempts to squash the momentum.

The corporation began holding frequent anti-union meetings, hired a law firm specializing in countering organizing efforts, and set up a website that seeks to persuade employees not to vote “yes.” 

In late February, the streaming platform Twitch, removed a series of anti-union ads run by Amazon. A Twitch spokesperson told Forbes that the ads violated their policies against political advertising, and said “they should have never been allowed to run on our service.” 

The support keeps rolling in for the brave workers, and it’s becoming apparent that Amazon has lost any sense of control over the crusade.

Patrisse Cullors, Executive Director of BLM Global Network Foundation, brought to light that this battle in Alabama is merely a small part of the “larger movement for collective liberation.”

“Black workers have historically been the backbone of this country, its institutions, and innovations. Therefore, it is fully within our rights and dignity that we be treated and compensated fairly,” Cullors said. 

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