Ainsworth: Amazon workers recognize union’s threat to Alabama economy
For the last few decades, our state has proudly led both the southeast and the nation in economic development, industrial recruitment and job creation, and closets at the Alabama Department of Commerce are overflowing with awards recognizing our successes and shovels commemorating groundbreakings.
Even today, as the U.S. continues to struggle with the economic fallout from the global COVID-19 pandemic, Alabama is faring better than most other states with regards to incoming tax revenues, and our employment rate ranks in the top 10 in the nation.
Though some of our citizens remain jobless and in obvious need of help, Alabama’s economic blessings are abundant.
Much of our success in attracting industries and promoting economic expansion can be attributed to the fact that Alabama is a “right to work” state that protects every citizen’s ability to hold a job without being forced to join a union.
Because the right to work is so deeply ingrained in Alabama’s social fabric and DNA, voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment that shields workers from having labor unions forced upon them, and it passed with 70% of the statewide vote.
Given the choice between locating in an open, free-market state like Alabama or one that embraces the high costs and Orwellian employment mandates of labor unionism, most businesses, regardless of size or industry, will choose to locate here.
Certainly, the explosive growth of Alabama’s automotive manufacturing sector and aerospace industry offer both strong and irrefutable evidence of that fact.
One of our state’s newest and fast-growing corporate citizens is Amazon, which announced, built and opened a massive order fulfillment center in Bessemer just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck with full force.
Employing just shy of 6,000 full-time and seasonal Alabama employees who earn average pay eclipsing $15.00 an hour along with generous health benefits, Amazon is already expanding its presence and workforce with the construction of two additional Birmingham-area delivery stations.
But much of that rapid expansion and the jobs and opportunities would have come to a quick and sudden halt if the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) had been successful in organizing workers in Amazon’s Alabama facilities.
The fact that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-avowed “Democratic socialist,” and radical Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez repeatedly voiced strong public support for the unionization efforts in Alabama indicate that it was not in the best interest of our conservative, pro-Trump state, its economy or the workers who reside here.
Keep in mind that in 2019, RWDSU, Sanders, AOC and other members of the furthest fringes of the left formed a coalition that forced Amazon to abandon plans for a $1.7 billion facility in New York that would have employed 25,000 workers.
Organizing the labor force in Bessemer could have prompted Amazon to swiftly reverse course, relocate its expansion, and re-examine its current presence and investment in Alabama.
Moreover, policies advocated by unions like RWDSU often work against the interests of many of the employees it claims to represent.
Labor unions, for example, often demand pay to be based upon longevity of employment rather than the quality and merit of the work that is accomplished. Under that scenario, an employee who works hard, excels, proves especially productive, and separates themself from the rest of the pack cannot be paid more than a previously hired worker who simply shows up and punches the time clock.
Such a system stifles incentive, blocks promotion, and prevents the best and most eager employees from moving ahead and providing a better life for their families. Younger workers with bright futures are especially held back by those policies.
Keeping Alabama economically healthy during a public health crisis is an incredibly difficult task and unionizing a major employer as it works to create even more jobs and further invest in our state is not the way to accomplish that goal.
Luckily, Amazon’s workers in Alabama voted overwhelmingly last week to reject the organized labor effort and refused to surrender their jobs to the labor union bosses and liberal leaders who wished to control them.
Because of the wise choice made by Amazon’s employees, Alabama will continue to be fertile ground for growing jobs and opportunities, and our best days still remain ahead of us.
Will Ainsworth is the lieutenant governor of Alabama