Over the years, it has been made all too clear that Amazon is among the most dangerous employers in the United States. One report cited six Amazon worker deaths between November 2018 and April 2019, and several news reports over the past few years that have detailed dangerous working conditions. Amazon has resisted employee efforts to organize for over two decades; at the end of March, a major win may be on the horizon.
Right now, approximately 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama will begin voting on whether to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale Department Store Workers Union (RWDSU). As the “largest single investment in the 130-year history of the city,” the warehouse in Bessemer promised to revive the city’s working class. Once the warehouse opened, however, the workers were experiencing grueling productivity quotas. They reached out to the RWDSU for help.
“The thing that is most important for them is to be treated with respect,” Appelbaum told NPR. “I also think that the facility was new and I think people had expectations when they came in that were not being realized.” – RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum
Now, between Feb 8 and March 29, approximately 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers are voting by mail on whether to be represented by the RWDSU.
At the USFWC our mission is worker-centered. We aim to build a movement of stable, empowering jobs that allow people to have a meaningful voice in their workplace— not just in the cooperative sector, but across all businesses. We believe that cooperatives are a tool that movements can use to lead the way toward economic justice in the U.S. and around the world. Our Union Co-ops Council works to bridge relationships between workers cooperatives and labor unions, educating and drawing connections between the union labor movement and the USFWC’s worker organizing efforts. This vote at the Bessemer, AL Amazon warehouse could be crucial to securing basic rights and supports for its workers, as well as paving the way for better work conditions for Amazon workers everywhere.
A majority Black workforce and majority Black town, we understand that the Black workers in this warehouse are driving history, fighting for their voice to be heard. Yet again, a historic moment in the evolution of the labor movement has been sparked by Black people.
“For generations, Black workers have risked their lives to spearhead worker rights efforts – fighting for their lives in the face of lynching, death threats, job loss and, most of all, white supremacy.”
– Resha Swanson, Adelante Alabama Worker Center in Birmingham
The USFWC stands in solidarity with the workers of the Bessemer, Alabama Amazon warehouse. We applaud the efforts of the workers, and look forward to the outcome of the vote for unionization.
Learn more about the Union Co-ops Council of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives and join the next Union Co-ops Full Council call on April 16.