The importance of Amazon’s union vote

Paul Navis

The vote has finally begun at the Amazon plant in Alabama on whether or not to unionize. In what is one of the most important union battles in modern history, Alabama workers have gained support throughout the United States for speaking out against Amazon’s anti-union campaign. People may wonder why a local Amazon plant in Alabama is receiving national attention.

The vote on whether or not to unionize will be counted by The National Labor Relations Board and will determine whether or not they will form the first union at an Amazon warehouse. A Union will help workers work with an employer to get a better contract such as better wages and working conditions. While not all workers have been in favor of a union, many are in favor of joining a union for a variety of reasons. While wages are definitely a part of being in a union, BBC claims that there are other issues that also affect the desire to unionize. Working in an Amazon warehouse is physically demanding. BBC states, “lots of workers complain of back pain or other physical niggles as a result of working long hours.” Workers also complain that the work is mind-numbing and that it feels like they are a cog in a machine. Many workers just don’t feel in control since often, they don’t control shift patterns, sick days, and time off. 

One major policy that workers complain of is Time off-task or TOT. This determines what time is spent on and off task by measuring how long it takes between the scanning of items. This means that technology is essentially watching their every move. This unnerves some workers due to their work being dictated by technology.

Other worker allegations are not proven and denied by Amazon. The alleged issue with peeing in a bottle due to workers not having bathroom breaks is denied by the company on Twitter. They state that they have 2 30 minute breaks in a 10 hour workday. However, James Bloodworth, an undercover writer who worked for Amazon while researching his book and was the one who started the rumor states that his comments are true and that it did happen.

Amazon has also been accused of actively union-busting. They have been accused of holding an anti-union campaign as well as bombarding employees with emails and texts that are anti-union. They are also known for claiming that they don’t need a union because they offer better pay and benefits than their competition. Amazon told BBC news, “Our employees know the truth – starting wages of $15 or more, health care from day one, and a safe and inclusive workplace.”

The road to unionization is difficult, especially in the South. Alabama is a right-to-work state. AP news, “beyond Amazon is the anti-union culture of the south.” Union advocates feel that this potential change in Alabama will be the change that unions and American workers need.