Jesus Christ would be on the side of union organizers and workers in the fight to unionize the Bessemer Amazon facility, one of the leading organizers said Thursday.
Joshua Brewer, a lead organizer for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, told the Alabama Politics This Week podcast that the effort to organize the 5,800 workers at the plant is the very definition of Christ’s commandments to care for the poor and protect the least of us.
Brewer isn’t just shooting from the hip. He’s a licensed minister who still practices (he said he presided over a funeral earlier this month) but saw union organizing as a better way to help the struggling working class.
“I’m saying that with a straight face,” Brewer said, when asked to clarify his comments about Jesus and unions. “If you read the words in red, what did he do? Who was he? He was an outcast to society. He went into the churches and temples, when they were taking advantage of the citizens and taxes, when they were legislatively oppressing his people, he was flipping tables and whipping with chains. That’s who he was. He was an outspoken advocate for people.
“When you live this life every day and see workers who are struggling with medical bills, with how to keep their lights on, with how to pay their mortgage and keep their children fed. And then you have one entity that’s building clocks in the side of mountains and has more wealth than almost a quarter of our 300 million population nation. I think it’s pretty clear which side we need to jump on here. I think we need to consider that as a society. And so, yes, I think it’s pretty obvious which side of this (Jesus) would be on.”
The fight to unionize the Amazon facility in Bessemer — which would be the first Amazon facility in America to have a union — has turned nasty and popular the closer it gets to the voting deadline, which is Monday.
Both sides have accused the other of unfair practices, but Amazon has been particularly bold in some of its union-busting efforts. Brewer noted on the podcast that Amazon installed a mailbox at its facility specifically for workers to drop off ballots, even after the National Labor Relations Board forbid the box. Additionally, several photos posted to social media show the mailbox wrapped in paper containing an anti-union message.
“Some of the desperately illegal things that Amazon has done tells me they know the popularity of this,” Brewer said. “It’s funny. Because if you look at what they’ve done, it’s almost like they knew that the longer this went on and the more the employees were educated on what a union is and what it does, the worse it would be for them. There was a big push by them to get employees to vote early. That mailbox was installed on the second day of voting.”
The vote is being closely watched all over the country, and many people — from labor organizers to politicians to workers’ rights organizations — see it as a potential first step in a much larger unionization effort across the country. A number of celebrities and big-name politicians have visited workers at the plant in the last few weeks, and Sen. Bernie Sanders was scheduled for a visit this weekend.
Part of the attention, though, is also due to a new labor movement in the country that is built on the efforts of workers who have tired of lagging wages, decreasing benefits, increasingly more profitable companies and absurd executive-level pay. Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, has become the primary villain, thanks to his super wealth and accusations that his plants underpay workers and treat them poorly.
To that end, Brewer said he doesn’t regret at all his move to union organizing, because he sees the help he’s giving real, struggling people.
“It’s everything that’s written in red (in the Bible),” Brewer said about his work. “It’s everything we’re told to do — to look out for our brothers and sisters in need, that a man should be paid for an honest day’s work an honest day’s wage, that we need to look out for the immigrant, that we need to look out for the widows and the children and the orphans, and we need to look out for each other. So, for me it was a natural way to continue that fight.”