Rally organized by Workers Assembly Against Racism in support of Amazon workers in stock in Bessemer, Alabama, rights to unionize in Union Square across the Whole Foods Market owned by Amazon.
Lev Radin | LightRocket | Getty Images
A group of Democratic members of Congress traveled to an Amazon warehouse in Alabama on Friday to show support for workers who are in the middle of a closely monitored union vote.
Among the lawmakers who visited the Amazon plant in Bessemer, Alabama were representatives Andy Levin from Michigan, Jamaal Bowman from New York, Cori Bush from Missouri, Terri Sewell from Alabama and Nikema Williams from Georgia. Lawmakers met with a couple of workers from the plant, known as BHM1
“I want Amazon workers across the country to be vigilant because you have to do the same in your workplace,” Bowman said Friday during a news conference outside the RWDSU Mid-South Council’s union hall in Birmingham, Alabama. “And we are not stopping with Amazon. This is Lift, this is Uber, this is Walmart, this is Tesla – all companies across the country that continue to be violent and provide terrible working conditions for workers we stand with you.”
During the press conference, Bowman said the trade union campaign in Alabama demonstrates the need to get better worker protection in place at Amazon and other companies in the United States. He described the work environment in Amazon as a “culture of abuse” and surveillance.
“If workers get out of the queue, they get some kind of write-down, and if you accumulate enough inconvenience, you get fired from your job,” Bowman said. “Are we dealing with machines or widgets, or are we dealing with people?”
Earlier this month, close to 6,000 workers at the Bessmer plant began voting at the post on whether to join the retail, wholesale and department store union, launching the first major union effort within the company since 2014. In November last year, workers at The Alabama facility. notified the NLRB of their plans to vote on whether they should be represented by the RWDSU.
Legislators’ demonstration of support comes just days after President Joe Biden on Sunday expressed solidarity with Amazon workers trying to unite the Bessemer plant, asking them to “make your voice heard.” Biden did not name Amazon specifically, but he did refer to “workers in Alabama.”
Several employees from the Bessemer Amazon facility also attended the briefing. Kevin Jackson, a BHM1 employee, said the union campaign is about securing Amazon workers “somewhere at the table like everyone else.”
“We are here to say that we will not be intimidated by anyone trying to say they are firing us because of what we want,” Jackson said.
Amazon employee Kevin Jackson speaks at the steps at RWDSU Mid-South headquarters before a tour of a congressional delegation to a nearby Amazon facility to show their support for workers who will vote on whether or not to unite, in Birmingham, Alabama, March 5, 2021.
Dustin Chambers | Reuters
Amazon has previously said that they respect the right of workers to join a union, but also that its employees do not need a union to get between them and the company. Amazon has made its position on the union campaign clear to workers at the Bessemer plant by holding mandatory trade union meetings and setting up a website urging workers to “do it without pay.”
In a statement, Amazon spokeswoman Heather Knox urged lawmakers to visit one of the company’s compliance centers to comply with working conditions there.
“We hope these members of Congress spend the same amount of energy raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour – as Amazon did for all of our employees in 2018,” Knox said in a statement. “We are proud to pay more than double the federal minimum wage, while offering comprehensive benefits, paid free and short and long-term career growth – all in a safe and modern work environment.”