In a major blow to President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and others on the national left, thousands of employees at Amazon’s state-of-the-art fulfillment center in Bessemer have overwhelmingly voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
The balloting began in February and wrapped up on March 31. The National Labor Relations Board then conducted a ballot-by-ballot public vote count on Thursday and Friday, which showed a blowout result against unionizing.
The “no” votes crossed the threshold needed to clinch the win at approximately 9:55 a.m. on Friday. At that point and for most of the count, the “no” votes were garnering more than 70% of ballots recorded.
RWDSU, which is based in New York, did not even wait until the vote count was halfway through on Thursday to begin questioning the integrity of the election — and thus seemingly disrespecting the vast majority of the Amazon employees’ choice not to join them. One complaint RWDSU has made revolves around a USPS-installed ballot dropbox outside of the Bessemer Amazon facility; that dropbox made it easier for employees to return their ballots, however, the union opposed its existence. RWDSU had already signaled on Thursday that they would attempt to have the election results overturned and the employees’ votes thrown out.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, on Thursday, claimed, “But make no mistake about it: This still represents an important moment for working people, and their voices will be heard.” This, of course, came as the RWDSU could be set to silence the voices of Amazon workers in Bessemer by challenging the clear-cut election results.
On Friday, after the result was certain, RWDSU confirmed it is formally filing the paperwork with the NLRB to “set aside” the election results, forcing a union on the employees even though they voted against it. Without evidence, the union claimed it was not “a free and fair election,” despite the mail-in process giving Amazon team members months instead of the normal days to participate.
Amazon throughout the unionization push process has stressed that the company’s wages and benefits are already industry-leading; the company’s “Do It Without Dues” campaign spoke to this and the potential high cost of employees having to turn over hard-earned money to union bosses.
On top of Amazon’s $15 minimum wage, the company offers industry-leading benefits to full-time employees, which include comprehensive health care from day one, 401(k) with 50% match, up to 20 weeks paid parental leave and Amazon’s innovative Career Choice program, which pre-pays 95% of tuition for courses in high-demand fields. Since the program’s launch four years ago, more than 25,000 employees have pursued degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming and radiology, just to name a few.
“Amazon is already about the best-paying job a non-skilled laborer can get in Alabama,” Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, told NBC News.
The quality of job offered by Amazon is especially important in Bessemer, which — per data from the Alabama Department of Labor — has consistently had the third-highest rate of unemployment among the state’s major cities.
One big winner emerging from the union vote results is U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), who publicly defended the Amazon employees against mounting public pressure from out-of-state Democratic politicians and left-wing activists.
“Alabama is a right-to-work state, which is why we have a growing economy that attracts great companies to our state. But importantly, right-to-work laws protect workers and give them the choice to form a union or not,” Tuberville previously said. “These employees in Alabama don’t need Hollywood elites or the federal government telling Alabama workers what to do.”
This rout of Sanders is akin to his humiliating defeat in last year’s Democratic presidential primary; it is also yet another public instance of the senator’s rhetoric not reaping results. Likewise, this loss for Biden is even worse than the thumping he took in the state’s 2020 general election.
UPDATE 12:00 p.m.
Amazon has released a statement regarding the union election in Bessemer.
The full statement reads as follows:
Thank you to employees at our BHM1 fulfillment center in Alabama for participating in the election. There’s been a lot of noise over the past few months, and we’re glad that your collective voices were finally heard. In the end, less than 16% of the employees at BHM1 voted to join the RWDSU union.
It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true. Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us. And Amazon didn’t win—our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union. Our employees are the heart and soul of Amazon, and we’ve always worked hard to listen to them, take their feedback, make continuous improvements, and invest heavily to offer great pay and benefits in a safe and inclusive workplace. We’re not perfect, but we’re proud of our team and what we offer, and will keep working to get better every day.
We hope that with this election now over, there’s an opportunity to move from talk to action across the country. While our team is more than a million people around the world and we’ve created 500,000 new jobs since Covid began, we’re still a tiny fraction of the workforce. There are 40 million Americans who make less than the starting wage at Amazon, and many more who don’t get health care through their employers, and we think that should be fixed. We welcome the opportunity to sit down and share ideas with any policymaker who wants to pass laws ensuring that all workers in the U.S. are guaranteed at least $15 an hour, health care from day one, and other strong benefits. Our employees have seen tremendous benefit from what we offer and we think every American family deserves the same. We believe that we can work better together instead of against each other to pass those important laws, and we hope that’s what will happen in the months and years ahead.
In the meantime, for anyone who’s interested in meeting some members of our team and seeing what it’s like to work inside one of our buildings, we encourage you to sign up for a tour at www.amazonfctours.com. It’s an incredible operation, supported by a world-class team, and we’d love for you to see for yourself.
UPDATE 12:50 p.m.
Senator Tuberville released a statement, saying, “The folks at Amazon’s Bessemer facility made the decision they felt is best for them, their families, and their community. But the important thing is that they had the choice.”
“Alabama’s Right to Work law gives workers a choice in whether they want to unionize or not,” he continued. “It’s unfortunate to see President Biden and Democrats in Washington trying to override state laws and make forced unionization the national norm. As workers across the country and now in Bessemer have demonstrated, they value their Right to Work protections, and I’ll continue to be a strong voice for their rights in the Senate.”
UPDATE 1:00 p.m.
Katie Britt, president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, released a statement.
“The workers at the Amazon facility in Bessemer have spoken,” she said. “Their vote is a testimony to the partnership between Alabama’s business community, and the working people of our state. It is the quality of our workforce that brings major international companies like Amazon to Alabama. Alabama is a Right to Work state and that status has helped attract companies that recognize that what is good for Alabama workers and their families, is also good for business.
UPDATE: 2:05 p.m.
Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield released a statement on the vote.
Canfield’s statement as follows:
It’s not surprising Amazon employees in Alabama voted overwhelmingly against unionization, as the company provides world-class benefits and a safe, quality work environment. We’re proud that Amazon chose Alabama, and we are proud to be a Right-To-Work state. Alabama has an unwavering support for its workforce, just as it supports the growth of business and economic development so vital for our citizens and communities.
We respect the decision of each and every employee at Amazon’s Bessemer operation and look forward to working with Amazon to facilitate its future growth plans in Alabama. Alabama remains a very favorable destination for investment, offering high-performing companies from around the world a business-friendly, low-cost environment with a highly motived workforce, among other advantages.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn