Reprinted from The San Francisco Chronicle by Spencer Soper and Josh Eidelson on March 19, 2021.
Inspired by the high-profile campaign to unionize an Amazon.com fulfillment center in Alabama, workers in Baltimore, New Orleans, Portland, Denver and Southern California have begun exploring ways to form unions at their own Amazon facilities. The Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is leading the drive in Bessemer, Alabama, says it has heard from 1,000 Amazon workers around the country.
These efforts are nascent and may fade, but labor experts say they could presage a multi-front campaign to improve working conditions at the world’s largest e-commerce company even if the RWDSU loses in Bessemer, where the vote to unionize ends March 29. “There are strikes and elections that become historical pivot points,” says Kate Bronfenbrenner, the director of labor education research at Cornell University. “This is one of them.”
As the RWDSU focuses on Alabama, the Teamsters are taking the battle beyond Amazon’s warehouses and into its delivery operations, where drivers earn about half as much as some of their unionized counterparts. Even the construction unions, which help build Amazon facilities and have an uneasy truce with the company, are starting to find common cause with warehouse workers over workplace safety. …