Amazon Faces Union Challenge In Alabama

Amazon is facing a growing challenge among its workforce in the United States, which so far has no trade union officially representing its staff.

The e-commerce giant has resisted staff joining unions in the Untied States, and has told workers it already offers the pay and benefits that unions promise, Reuters reported. It has also reportedly trained managers to spot organising activity.

In October this year Amazon however said it would respect the rights of workers to join a trade union, after media reports suggested it planned to tracking union activity in its workforce.

Union resistance?

Recode has reported it had viewed a confidential Amazon internal memo that apparently revealed the firm planned to made significant investments in technology to track and counter the threat of unionisation.

The previous month in September, Amazon had landed itself in hot water over two job adverts for “intelligence analysts”, who would be responsible for reporting on activities “including labour organising threats against the company.”

Amazon however said the adverts were badly worded and withdrew the adverts, but credence was added to the suspicion it was hiring people to spy on trade unions as the job listings cited previous experience desired for the role, which said “an officer in the intelligence community, the military, law enforcement, or a related global security role in the private sector.”

Want to know about the history of Amazon? Try our Tales in Tech History piece.

Amazon has also previously experienced trade union disruption in France and Germany.

In February 2019, Amazon cancelled plans to build one of its second headquarters in New York, after the e-commerce giant encountered unexpected opposition to its plans, partly down to its opposing unionisation.

Alabama challenge

But now Reuters has reported an upcoming vote for workers (or associates) at one warehouse (Amazon’s fulfilment centre in Bessemer, Alabama), where staff as being asked whether they should unionise and join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

The organising committee has reportedly launched a social media campaign, shared union authorisation cards and collected enough to hold the election.

This week and last, Reuters reported that the RWDSU and Amazon negotiated the election terms. By Tuesday they agreed to have seasonal workers in the bargaining unit, as well as process assistants, whose inclusion the union had questioned for their supervisory authority.

A government labor board will set the election date.

“We don’t believe this group represents the majority of our employees’ views,” Amazon told Reuters in a statement. “Our employees choose to work at Amazon because we offer some of the best jobs available everywhere we hire.”

Average pay at the Bessemer facility is $15.30 per hour, and jobs come with health and retirement benefits, it added.

It should be noted that Amazon has not faced a union election in the United States since 2014, and a “yes” vote would be the first ever for a US Amazon facility.

Amazon is second-biggest private employer in the United States, behind Walmart,

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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