Bezos Beats Dem-Backed Union Effort in Alabama

Jeff Bezos (Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images)
April 9, 2021

Amazon workers at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, voted decisively against unionizing, a defeat for high-profile Democrats such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), who publicly backed the effort.

The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, which organized the effort, said it would appeal the vote to the National Labor Relations Board, citing aggressive anti-union efforts by Amazon. But the vote is unlikely to be overturned, as workers voted 1,798 to 738 against unionizing.

"We won't let Amazon's lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote," said union president Stuart Appelbaum on Friday. While none of Amazon's 1.3 million workers are unionized, Amazon maintains its pay and health care policies are better than those of its competitors.

In a statement Friday, Sanders said he was "disappointed but not surprised by the vote" and suggested that "some of Amazon's anti-union efforts may have been in violation of [National Labor Relations Board] law." Sanders praised Amazon workers in Alabama for "their courage and willingness to stand up for workers' rights," calling them "an inspiration to workers all across the country."

In the lead-up to the vote, Amazon took a surprisingly aggressive line on social media, attacking Sanders for campaigning on behalf of the union. It also assailed Rep. Mark Pocan (D., Wis.) for referring to allegations that Amazon workers were forced to urinate in bottles to save time. Amazon later apologized for its attack on Pocan and tacitly admitted that many Amazon drivers report having to urinate in bottles.

Some Republicans saw the union vote as an opportunity to punish Amazon for its recent censorship of conservative voices. In a USA Today op-ed, Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) called Amazon's opposition to the unionization effort "inconsistent with the progressive values it has forced on everyone else." Amazon banned the sale of a bestselling book on the transgender movement last month and adjusted its policies to bar sales of any books that "frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness."

Published under: Amazon , Jeff Bezos , Unions