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    Why Amazon’s Union Vote Matters

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    The result of a vote to form a union at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. Is very much a ride.

    My colleague Karen Weisz described it as the most important unionization effort in the history of Amazon. Ballots are now being counted with expected results within days. Karen talked with me about how the outcome could be beyond this one workplace.

    Shira: Why is this union campaign Getting so much attentionThe

    Karen: This is a temperature check on beliefs about Amazon and labor unions at a turning point for both. Amazon is ascending and has created a mind-blowing number of jobs in the past year, bringing its global work force to around 1.3 million now. And one question that people have: Are these jobs as good as they can be? The Union vote is, in a way, a referendum on that question.

    It is also high stakes for labor unions. Their membership has generally been declining for decades in the United States. And the questions facing unions are: what role, if any, will they have in the future workforce? Birmingham has a lot of meanings tied to the votes of around 6,000 Amazon employees.

    What do the workers supporting this union say they want?

    My colleague Michael Corkery and I have heard from Amazon workers who say they do not feel valued. They believe that they are constantly monitored to meet productivity goals, and work can be finished.

    While Amazon’s salary is higher than the minimum wage, they say that it is not enough for them to physically compensate for work demands and monitoring. There is a subgroup of workers, who believe that a union will help them with the power to change their salary or working conditions.

    And what does Amazon say?

    Amazon’s position is that it pays workers well – the starting wage is at least $ 15 per hour, compared to the federal minimum wage of $ 7.25 per hour in the United States, which is also the minimum wage in Alabama. And Amazon says that workers are better off engaging directly with the company through a union.

    What is the expected result of this union vote?

    Conventional wisdom is that the union will not succeed, so most experts are looking to see how close the vote will be. A slim vote against the union may still encourage labor organizers to try again at other Amazon workplaces. But if the union loses by a huge margin, Amazon will feel valid about its workplace practices and unions in its stance.

    I am wondering what it means best when the union vote fails in Bessemer. It can be hard to distinguish how satisfied workers are with their jobs, how many don’t think that a union is the solution, especially given Amazon’s message on the subject.

    Why did this special warehouse become the center of a unionization campaign? And why now?

    The Birmingham area is described more like the industrial areas of the Midwest than the South. It has a long history of strong steel and mining unions, and unions were particularly involved in the civil rights movement. About 85 percent of the employees at the Bessemer warehouse are Black, and union organizers have focused on issues of racial empowerment and equality.

    And more recently, workers have feared about the health risks of the epidemic and the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement have led some employees to feel emboldened to demand more from Amazon.

    Part of Amazon status It is that it is doing what people and politicians want companies to do: it is generating a lot of employment and paying more than many of its retail competitors. Is Amazon held to an unfair standard to do more?

    Amazon certainly believes this, and it points to Walmart as a competitor with lower salaries and benefits. But at the peak of Walmart’s growth, it was also investigated to change how we shop and for workers’ salaries and treatment. Companies that are growing rapidly are naturally going to feel a lot of attention and pressure.

    What do Amazon critics want to do?

    Amazon’s retail business is more profitable than realized by many, but it invests a lot of its profits in new technologies such as drones, Alexa or other innovations that we are not yet aware of. Some activists are asking if Amazon’s workers, the economy and perhaps the company itself would be better off if Amazon spends more on them.

    They point to examples of companies with different priorities. Costco, which employs about 200,000 people in the United States, recently stated that its average wage was $ 24 per hour and that it planned to raise the starting salary to $ 16 per hour.

    (Amazon has stated that a full-time full-time employee in the United States had a total compensation that equaled about $ 18 an hour in 2019. Costco’s figure is not a direct comparison because it includes well-paid technical and corporate employees Are, which reveals Costco. Does not.)

    Costco’s chief executive said they were good for the wage business.

    ()For more information on this subject: Noam Sheheber discusses why this vote is A big deal for trade unions. Written by Astead Herndon Why biden became involved. And featured a Wall Street Journal podcast Two Bessemer employees with opposing positions On union.)

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