The sun hasn’t risen yet, but Steve and Syrena hold up their signs in the direction of the night shift workers leaving the premises and taking over on this foggy Saturday.
“Thank you for your courage!”they can read with their headlights on the signs signed by the RWDSU, the distribution union that represents the 5,800 employees of the warehouse if the workers agree to join it.
This will be the first time that a union is established in an Amazon subsidiary in the United States.
The online commerce giant employs 800,000 people in the countrymainly at sorting and packaging sites like this one.
The union promoters have taken turns for five months at this intersection between a national highway and industrial buildings.
Banners asking for the vote They were displayed at the entrance of the huge white and gray warehouse, along with a luminous arrow in the shape of a smile, the logo of the guild.
Steve, the mainstay of the movement, was present almost every day between 3 a.m. and 3 p.m., first to collect signatures to demand a vote on the constitution of a union, then to call for a vote for the union and finally to thank the workers for their mobilization.
“He’s too modest to say, but some days he collected up to 50 signatures by himself!” Says Syrena.
More than 3,000 employees have signed an agreement in principle, but victory is far from certain.
Without officially opposing union formation, Amazon is campaigning – with weekly meetings, text messages and posters even in the bathrooms – to dissuade its employees from joining the union.
The union suspects that the firm asked local authorities to shorten the duration of the red light at the intersection to prevent its members from chatting with drivers for too long.
“Between October 20 and December 25 we were there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We became very familiar with the flow of traffic.
And one day the red light practically disappeared. It turned green most of the time, “said Joshua Brewer, RWDSU local president.
According to the pro-union media More Perfect Union, the county confirmed to have changed the duration of the red light at Amazon’s request, officially to make traffic more fluid.
Lafonda Townsend, an African-American worker, voted to unionize to be able to negotiate better working conditions, especially in terms of safety, protection against Covid-19 and work rates.
According to the AFP, during the “mandatory meetings, three times a week” with company executives, the workers were told that “they do not need representatives”, that they could “contact directly” the directors and that it was not worth the effort. penalty “to pay union memberships that will increase to 500 dollars a year.”
“Something never seen”
“We received lots of text messages from Amazon for us to vote no “said Frances Wallace, a 20-year-old employee who demonstrated in a park on Saturday with a dozen people.
“JC, 43, was hired in April. He loves working at Amazon. His health insurance saves him $ 800 a month and has helped him pay for his two children’s dental braces,” said one of the SMS.
Mistrust reigns in Bessemer after months of campaigning for and against the union, false rumors and tensions. Media attention is focused on this movement that can become historical.
Previous attempts to organize a union at Amazon in the United States failed.
Employers “tell workers that with a union they should go on strike, and then they will no longer be able to pay their bills,” complains Joshua Brewer. “Some employees are afraid of losing their jobs, even if this is not true.”
“Hiring consultants specializing in the fight against unionization is quite typical, but we have never seen this level of sophistication and fear,” he added.
Consulted by AFP at the beginning of the vote, in February, Amazon recorded the creation of jobs (5,000), the level of income (15 dollars per hour, more than double the minimum wage in Alabama) and the social benefits of its workers.
“More than 90% of our employees at Bessemer say they will recommend Amazon as a place to work to their friends,” said corporate spokeswoman Heather Knox at the time.
Sanders supports workers in Alabama
Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders traveled to Alabama to support the mobilization of Amazon workers who try to create for the first time a union of the giant’s employees in the United States.
The independent senator from Vermont, who calls himself a “democratic socialist,” traveled to try to convince a group of workers who are hesitant to take the step of creating a union organization.
“They are currently afraid“Commented the legislator who arrived accompanied by rapper Killer Mike and actor Danny Glover.
Amazon “fears that if workers succeed in forming a union in Alabama the idea can be extended to the whole country “he told reporters after a speech to local employees of the online commerce giant.
“In Europe, Amazon negotiates with unions, so it can also do so in the United States,” said this figure of progressivism in the North American country.
According to the criteria of
Source site www.elmundo.es