Amazon must unionize


As Amazon employees in Bessemer, Alabama prepare to vote on the potential joining of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, pushback from the company has been intense. Employees have been forced to attend meetings about the “dangers” of unionizing, and the facility has been bombarding workers with text messages, often up to five a day, with anti-union rhetoric. Perhaps most intriguing has been the development of Amazon’s new website,, which is solely dedicated to dissuading Amazon workers from unionizing on the grounds that union members pay dues in order to fund their operations. “Information” provided by the website is minimal, and riddled with logical fallacies. For example, in a Q&A list Amazon asks “Will a union provide better wages and benefits?” to which they answer “A union cannot guarantee better wages and benefits. With union negotiations, you could end up with more, the same… or less than what you make today,” but fail to mention that these conditions also apply to a non-unionized Amazon.

Attempts at unionizing have been made in the past, but Amazon’s strict monitoring of unionization efforts and aggressive methods of union-busting have prevented them from succeeding. In 2019, Amazon employee Justin Rashad Long was fired for attempting to unionize workers in a Staten Island fulfillment center, with Amazon citing that he was fired for a safety violation, though the violation he was fired for typically only warranted a two-week suspension. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union came to his defense, but Long was never rehired. In 2020, the same fulfilment center fired Christian Smalls, who organized a walkout to protest unsafe working conditions.

Legally, Amazon is allowed to express anti-union sentiments, but the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) grants employees the right to form or join unions, take coordinated action (such as protesting) to improve their working conditions or to refrain from such activities. The firings of Justin Rashad Long and Christian Smalls were unjust, but since they technically were not fired for their activism, very little action could be taken legally.

Obviously Amazon has strong anti-union sentiments – but why? Of course, it’s clear that Amazon doesn’t have its workers’ best interests in mind – unsafe working conditions, frequent injuries and long hours prove that the wellbeing of workers is low on Amazon’s list of priorities. However, cutting corners is what makes Amazon the commerce giant they are, and if unionization helps workers not be exploited, Amazon’s productivity suffers. Unions give power to the workers, and this is precisely what Amazon is afraid of.

Companies taking anti-union stances is nothing new. In fact, union-busting dates back to the Industrial Revolution, and the first “Red Scare” lead to many violent confrontations between union members and law enforcement, including the Everett Massacre, in which local authorities confronted members of the anarchistic labor union Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), resulting in five union member deaths and 27 injuries. The ways that unions are demonized within American society have evolved, but the sentiment has stayed the same – workers who organize are powerful, and this is incredibly intimidating to those in charge.

While Amazon has desperately tried to paint their anti-union campaign as being in the best interest of their workers, the reality is that they’re terrified of their workers finally having a voice and being able to advocate for their rights. Out of all southern states, Alabama has the highest percentage of union members, and Bessemer in particular has a strong history with the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers. If Amazon workers in Bessemer vote to unionize, it will send a strong (and necessary) message to Amazon that workers are tired of unfair and inhumane working conditions, and potentially give other Amazon facilities the push they need to pursue unionization.