Amazon Union Drive Takes Hold in Unlikely Place
But the company has also begun to face pressure from its corporate employees, over climate change and other issues, and from many warehouse workers around the country who have felt emboldened to speak up. The attention is only likely to increase with Amazon on pace to surpass Walmart as the country’s largest employer in a few years.
Business & Economy
Jan. 22, 2021, 7:23 p.m. ET
Success at the Bessemer warehouse, which only opened in March, could inspire workers in the booming e-commerce industry more broadly, said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “If you can do it in Alabama, we can do it here in Southern California for sure,” he said. “It would have a huge ripple effect.”
In a statement, Heather Knox, an Amazon spokeswoman, said the company did not believe that the union “represents the majority of our employees’ views,” adding, “Our employees choose to work at Amazon because we offer some of the best jobs available everywhere we hire, and we encourage anyone to compare our total compensation package, health benefits and workplace environment to any other company with similar jobs.”
The company created a website that suggests that the union’s dues — which could total about $9.25 a week for a full-time employee — will leave workers with less money to pay for school supplies.
“Why not save the money and get the books, gifts and things you want?” the website says.
An early version of the website included photos of happy-looking young workers, including the image of a Black man leaping in the air that appeared to be from a free stock photo website. On the site the man and a woman are pictured in an image labeled “excited african-american couple jumping, having fun.”
Asked about the site, Amazon called it “educational” and said it “helps employees understand the facts of joining a union.” (As of last Tuesday evening, the company had removed the stock photos including that of the leaping man.)
Race has often been at the heart of unionizing campaigns in the South. A century ago, multiracial steel and coal miners unions around Birmingham were a “cockpit of labor militancy,” Mr. Lichtenstein said.