The richest man in the world wins again. Earlier this week, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, voted overwhelmingly against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The rich person I refer to is of course Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
This is a big blow to unions and a big blow to equality in the United States. Amazon workers will continue to earn their $15 plus an hour and Mr. Bezos will continue to add to his $196-billion.
Given the magnitude of the vote, over two to one against, we must conclude that the workers are happy with their situation. The $15 an hour starting pay is well above the local minimum and Amazon, at least according to Amazon, has generous health care and other benefits. Worker LaVonette Stokes said, “This particular union can’t give us anything that Amazon does not already offer.”
The workers didn’t lack for supporters. They were backed by sports stars, actors and other celebrities, and politicians from Independent Bernie Sanders to Republican Marco Rubio. Black Lives Matter was onside and even President Biden implied solidarity.
But Amazon prevailed, withstanding the largest union push yet among its U.S. workers. Its slogan “do it without dues” won the day.
With over 800,000 employees, Amazon is the second-largest private employer in the country. A win for the union would have been a major breakthrough. It is now filing a legal challenge, charging Amazon with unfair labor practices, claiming “the employer created an atmosphere of confusion, coercion and/or fear of reprisals and thus interfered with the employees’ freedom of choice.”
Forming a union in the U.S. is notoriously difficult and the result may lead the Biden administration to revisit the laws that now advantage employers. Unionization is critical to creating a more equitable American society. The Bessemer workers may be content with Amazon, but inequality overall persists and grows. It has already led the country to the brink of fascism. If it should tip it over, the result would be a disaster for all of us, not just Americans.