This would have been a first in the United States. Employees who tried to create a union in an Amazon warehouse failed at the polls on Friday, April 9. “We are disappointed, frustrated, angry (…) because we have been lied to and manipulatedsaid Emmit Ashford, an employee at the Bessemer, Alabama site. But it was a spark that started a fire in America. “
Nearly 5,900 employees were called upon to vote by mail. The no to unionization won with 1,798 votes against 738 in favor of RWDSU, the national distribution union that employees wanted to join. Several hundred ballots were contested, but victory is already assured for the e-commerce giant.
“Amazon did not win, our employees chose to vote against the union”, reacted the group in a statement, brushing aside the accusations of intimidation. “Our employees have heard a lot more anti-Amazon messages from the union, elected officials and the media than they have heard from us.”
RWDSU has vowed to file a complaint with the Federal Labor Law Agency against the group it accuses “illegal interference” in the vote. The result “is in no way a validation of working conditions at Amazon, on the contrary, it demonstrates the power of the employer and its power of intimidation and manipulation”, assenait Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the union, during a press conference.
The group has been making its case against unionization with texts, posters and weekly briefings in the warehouse for months, brandishing the scarecrow of union dues and the risk of costly strikes.
Despite everything, Bessemer’s movement took on a national dimension. It has seen backlash against support for employees – artists, Democratic and Republican parliamentarians, and even President Joe Biden – and the second largest employer in the United States (800,000 employees), whose businesses flourished during the pandemic.
According to many experts, US labor law is biased in favor of employers, and Bessemer’s result shows the need for reform. Despite the defeat, “this is a major milestone (…) because it is one of the first attempts to unionize part of the digital economy”, points out Darrell West of the Brookings Institution.