The company has a chance to be better. It should take it.
This past Friday Amazon won a monumental battle in Bessemer, Alabama as employees for its warehouse voted down unionization. This isn’t shocking. Amazon did everything they could to dissuade this from happening.
Amazon pushed hard to convince workers to vote against unionization. The company set up an anti-union website that harped on the fact that union dues would cost full-time workers close to $500 a year. What the company didn’t say on the website is that, in Alabama, unions can’t require workers to pay union dues. So a union at Amazon’s BHM1 wouldn’t be able to force workers to become members and pay dues or fees. Even in such a situation, these employees would still be covered by a union contract and would be represented by the union if the company violated the agreement in a way that harmed the worker.
Amazon also convened mandatory in-person meetings during worker shifts to stress the downsides of unions, sending frequent texts to workers with anti-union messages and encouraging them to vote no. The company went so far as to post anti-union flyers on employee bathroom stall doors.
The retail giant also did something else that appears to be even more controversial. Amazon pressed the United States Postal Service to install a mailbox on the grounds of the Bessemer warehouse right before voting started — and after the NLRB denied the company’s request to place a ballot drop box on the property. Some workers have said they were intimidated by the installation of the mailbox, as well as the messages from Amazon to use it, and believe that the company wanted to monitor who voted.
Having a seat at the bargaining table shouldn’t be such an issue in our society, but for some reason it is. One of the largest single employers on Earth has a chance to show the rest of the world that, yes, we can be a trillion dollar company, but we can also be an excellent employer. Sure they pay a minimum $15 per hour and they’ve hired thousands this past year, but why not go further? Why not accept this responsibility and help shrink the growing gap between the rich and the poor? And I mean lets face it, the majority of employees who work for Amazon make this paltry minimum. What kind of life is that? It’s unfortunate those workers voted this opportunity down, this could have been the start of something. I mean look what Amazon founder Jeff Bezos made last week.
We live in a world where this is accepted. This needs to change.
A few things to consider here as well.
From the Economic Policy Institute:
Unions raise wages for both union and nonunion workers
On average, a worker covered by a union contract earns 11.2% more in wages than a peer with similar education, occupation, and experience in a nonunionized workplace in the same industry; this wage advantage is known as the “union wage premium.”16And unions don’t just help union workers — they help all of us. When union density is high, nonunion workers benefit, because unions effectively set broader standards — including higher wages, as noted by Rosenfeld, Denice, and Laird (2016) — that nonunion employers must meet in order to attract and retain the workers they need (and to avoid facing a union organizing drive themselves).
The combination of the direct effect of unions on union members and this “spillover” effect to nonunion workers means unions are crucial in raising wages for working people and reducing income inequality. Research shows that deunionization accounts for a sizable share of the growth in inequality between typical (median) workers and workers at the high end of the wage distribution in recent decades — on the order of 13–20% for women and 33–37% for men.
Unions help raise wages for women and lessen racial wage gaps
Unions help raise women’s pay. Hourly wages for women represented by a union are 5.8% higher on average than for nonunionized women with comparable characteristics. Rigorous research shows that unions reduce gender wage gaps within given employers: For example, Biasi and Sarsons (2020) show that the expiration of teacher collective bargaining agreements led to a gender gap in wages between male and female teachers with similar credentials.
Unions also help close wage gaps for Black and Hispanic workers. Since collective bargaining lifts wages of Black and Hispanic workers closer to those of their white counterparts, Black and Hispanic workers get a larger boost from unionization. White workers represented by union are paid “just” 8.7% more than their nonunionized peers who are white, but Black workers represented by union are paid 13.7% more than their nonunionized peers who are Black, and Hispanic workers represented by unions are paid 20.1% more than their nonunionized peers who are Hispanic.
This is far from over for Amazon. I’m hopeful a union will form someday. You should be too, it’s better for society overall.