The News Fix
Amazon’s workforce has begun to agitate. The nation’s second-largest employer managed to quash a union drive at its fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, this week, but the campaign has lit a spark among Amazon’s 1 million workers in the United States. The group leading the charge in Bessemer, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, has heard from hundreds of Amazon workers in other parts of the country. And the Teamsters have been working to organize the company’s delivery drivers through an initiative they call the Amazon Project.
Some labor organizers say the strategy at Amazon could shift in the near term to less formal actions. Under today’s laws, workers typically have to hold and win elections site by site — a huge undertaking at an employer as large and sprawling as Amazon. But informal walkouts and demonstrations could be held companywide, organizers say. A Teamsters leader in Iowa told the New York Times, “We’re focused on building a new type of labor movement where we don’t rely on the election process to raise standards.”
Organizing the new but growing e-commerce workforce could take a while. A union campaign at the Bethlehem Steel mill on Baltimore’s Sparrows Point peninsula took 50 years and met with fierce opposition before the vote finally passed in 1941 as the U.S. ramped up wartime manufacturing. By the 1950s, work at the plant “had become safer and far better-paid,” Alec MacGillis wrote in The New Yorker this week. (Bethlehem Steel’s mill shut down in 2012, and today the site is home to an Amazon fulfillment center — with a nonunionized workforce.)