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May 29, 2024

“Union” Gives Unprecedented Look Into Amazon’s Anti-Union Tactics

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Jan 22, 2024

Amazon’s anti-union efforts took center stage at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival with the premiere of the documentary “Union”. The film gives an unprecedented inside look at the company’s aggressive tactics to squash a historic union vote at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama in 2021.

Background of the Union Drive

The union drive began organically amongst workers at the Bessemer warehouse, which opened in March 2020. Employees were upset about pandemic working conditions and the high pressure productivity system that tracks their every move.

In summer 2020, a small group of workers contacted the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). By late 2020 they had collected enough signatures to hold an election.

RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said many factors led workers to unionize:

“The pandemic certainly drew much more attention to workers and the importance of workers,” he said. “When Amazon is making record-breaking profits and they’re telling you they don’t have enough money to give you a dollar raise, workers start questioning things more.” (Hollywood Reporter)

In February 2021, almost 6,000 employees at the Bessemer facility began voting by mail on whether to form a union. It was one of the largest unionization attempts in Amazon’s history.

Inside Look at Amazon’s Union-Busting Playbook

What followed was an onslaught of anti-union messaging and tactics by Amazon, as extensively documented in “Union”. The filmmakers obtained leaked internal training documents showing the company’s extensive plans to dissuade employees from unionizing.

Director Brett Story said:

“Seeing their playbook in action, you understand why it’s so difficult for any organizing campaign to succeed. It’s a hydra.” (Variety)

Amazon brought in dozens of outside consultants to monitor the workplace and hold mandatory anti-union meetings. It texted workers multiple times a day urging them to vote no. It even pressured local government to shorten traffic light times outside the facility to make it harder for organizers to talk to workers.

Election Result and Aftermath

In April 2021, Amazon secured enough “no” votes to defeat the union drive. However, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union filed objections over Amazon’s conduct during the election.

In November 2021, a National Labor Relations Board officer determined that Amazon violated labor law and called for a do-over election. But Amazon continued appealing the decision, preventing a new vote from happening.

Finally in February 2022, the full National Labor Relations Board affirmed the prior ruling that Amazon interfered in the election. This paved the way for the historic do-over election currently underway, with votes set to be counted March 28th.

Over 6,100 employees are eligible to vote again on whether to form Amazon’s first US union. Meanwhile, Amazon continues running an aggressive anti-union campaign leading up to the new election.

What This Means for the Labor Movement

The Bessemer union fight comes as low wage workers across the country are increasingly speaking out for better pay and working conditions.

The film itself has now become part of that activism. At Sundance, director Brett Story said she hopes “Union” helps workers at Amazon and beyond:

“This is a global corporation and this film, we hope, can be part of a process of global solidarity building that we’re going to need if we want to shift power.” (Variety)

A successful union vote would be a groundbreaking development, potentially inspiring more worker organizing at the ecommerce giant’s over 1,500 US facilities.

For now, the outcome hangs in the balance as ballots are cast. But regardless of the results, “Union” has delivered an unflinching profile of Amazon’s anti-union playbook for all to see.

Table: Timeline of Key Events in Bessemer Union Drive

Date Event
Summer 2020 Small group of workers contact Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)
Late 2020 Enough signatures collected to hold union election
Feb 8, 2021 Nearly 6,000 Bessemer warehouse workers begin voting by mail
April 2021 Amazon secures enough “no” votes to defeat union drive
Nov 2021 National Labor Relations Board officer calls for redo election due to Amazon’s conduct
Feb 2022 Full National Labor Relations Board affirms need for new union vote
March 2022 Over 6,100 Bessemer employees voting again whether to unionize
March 28, 2022 Scheduled date for union vote count
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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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