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Alabama Democrats support Bessemer Amazon workers ahead of union vote

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, rap artist Michael “Killer Mike” Render and actor Danny Glover will visit with Amazon workers Friday.

(STOCK PHOTO)

As the deadline to vote approaches, several Alabama Democrat lawmakers pen a letter in support of unionization efforts at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer.

Support is also coming on Friday with a visit to Birmingham by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, rap artist Michael “Killer Mike” Render and a return visit by actor Danny Glover, according to a Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union press release. All three are to speak to Amazon workers at the union headquarters in Birmingham. 

Workers are deciding whether to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union. Voting ends on March 29.     

“What happens in Alabama affects the entire nation. Right now, workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer are mounting a historically significant unionizing effort. Their campaign is a part of a long tradition of labor organizing in Alabama and the fight against worker exploitation,” the 14 Democrat lawmakers from Alabama wrote in the letter.  

“In the 1880s, Black Alabamians formed chapters of the Agricultural Wheel. This alliance was devoted to things like debt relief and curbing the abuses of big banks and corporations. Throughout the early 20th century, integrated coal miners cooperatives formed to challenge the companies who forced them to work in life-threatening work environments while paying them subsistence-level wages. Workers in our state know how to cross racial, gender, and geographical boundaries and collaborate for change,” the letter continues. 

Approximately 80 percent of the Amazon workers in Bessemer are Black, according to The Guardian, which citied union leaders. 

Ballots went out to the facility’s 5,800 workers on Feb. 1. According to the National Labor Relations Board, elections to unionize are decided by a majority of votes cast, but it’s not clear how quickly the result will be announced. 

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“Any party may file objections and an offer of proof in support of its objections with the appropriate Regional Director within 7 days of the vote count,” the NLRB’s website states. 

The NLRB website also states that election results can also be set aside if “conduct by the employer or the union created an atmosphere of confusion or fear of reprisals and thus interfered with the employees’ freedom of choice”

Read the full letter below: 

“What happens in Alabama affects the entire nation. Right now, workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer are mounting a historically significant unionizing effort. Their campaign is a part of a long tradition of labor organizing in Alabama and the fight against worker exploitation.  

“In the 1880s, Black Alabamians formed chapters of the Agricultural Wheel. This alliance was devoted to things like debt relief and curbing the abuses of big banks and corporations. Throughout the early 20th century, integrated coal miners cooperatives formed to challenge the companies who forced them to work in life-threatening work environments while paying them subsistence-level wages. Workers in our state know how to cross racial, gender, and geographical boundaries and collaborate for change.  

“Alabama has union roots, and those unions have helped workers fight back against greedy elites who are more interested in exploitation than doing what is right. Each day, we work hard to help Alabama-based businesses thrive and bring new economic opportunities to our state. However, we will always support workers when they demand safe and fair working conditions.

“In an ideal world, our colleagues would partner with us to better protect working families from unfair labor practices and wages. Unfortunately, the consensus among Republican leadership is that elected officials should side with the powerful and leave working folks to fend for themselves. 

“But we stand with workers. 

“We believe every Alabama worker deserves a living wage and a safe work environment. We believe that every working person should share in the prosperity of our nation. As Rev. King puts it, “all work has dignity,” and every worker has the right to provide for themselves and their family without encountering unfair hurdles along the way.

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 “Unions give workers a powerful vehicle to protect themselves from dangerous working conditions, exploitation, and unfair pay. We stand with the Amazon workers in Bessemer, fighting to create a better life for themselves and workers everywhere. Your courage is inspiring, and your campaign is important: What happens in Alabama affects the entire nation. 

We are with you!

Eddie Burkhalter
Written By

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

DIG DEEPER

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The company won enough votes by a wide margin. The union said it would file an objection with the NLRB.

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Out of the 600 surveyed nationwide between March 28 and 30, 77 percent of respondents supported the unionization efforts.

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It could take days or even weeks to learn the outcome. Amazon plants across the country are watching.

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A lead organizer said the union effort carries all the tenets of Christianity and would aid struggling workers and families.