The Votes Are In: Amazon’s Alabama warehouse fails to secure unionisation

April 24, 2021

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Amazon’s Alabama warehouse recently voted against the option for unionisation. Although this battle has been won by Amazon, it is apparent the efforts to secure unionisation are far from over.

What does this mean?

Unionisation enables the protection of workers on issues ranging from wages to working conditions. After consistent reports of poor working conditions at Amazon workplaces, from Europe to the USA, unionisation appeared to offer a strong option for workers to further assert their rights. Whereby the Business Insider confirmed “the final tally was 1,798 votes against unionizing and 738 votes for the union,” this raises the important question as to why 70.9% of workers voted against unionising?

Suspecting foul play from Amazon, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) has asserted its intent to file objections on the basis that “Amazon interfered with the rights of its…employees to vote in a free and fair election.” President of the RWDSU, Stuart Appelbaum, went as far as stating that Amazon’s tactics to influence their workers were “egregious and blatantly illegal actions.” 

In response to such arguments, Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesperson, claimed that these negative responses to this vote are merely “fabrications” which “are tiresome but expected,” due to the voting statistics not representing the desired outcomes of the Unions.

What's the big picture effect?

Whilst the results of this vote in Alabama were against unionisation, this is certainly not the end of the road for the wider demographic of workers who seek to unionise in the USA. Assistant Professor of Management at Syracuse University Lynne Vincent, recognises that this vote taking place with substantial “support from large unions” signifies both positive “momentum behind this movement” and a key step forward for discontent workers.

Building upon this outlook, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Richard Trumka observes that “this organising drive is going to open the floodgates to more collective action” for those seeking to improve worker rights and assert their voice within the workplace. 

Aside from this vote itself, President Joe Biden has clearly expressed his commitment to furthering pro-union policies and claims that the Protecting the Right to Organize “PRO” Act would further “enhance the power of workers” and make it easier for workers to unionise if they choose to. Therefore, whilst Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder has commented that there needs to be a “better vision” and has recognised that more steps need to be taken to address employee concerns across Amazon workplaces, Biden’s Act continues to highlight how unionisation is a simmering issue which requires political and legal attention.

Despite Amazon’s win against this Alabama warehouse’s unionisation effort, it is clear that this issue demands greater attention. Ultimately, effective responses are not only required at a company level within Amazon or even State level within Alabama but across the entirety of the USA. 

Report written by Karolina Smolicz 

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