Amazon Rerun in Bessemer

Labor Organizing
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 Little Rock      Here we go again.  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has set the rerun election for the RWDSU, the semi-autonomous union of UFCW, at the giant Alabama warehouse for February balloting with the count in early March.  Earlier the NLRB had ruled that Amazon had committed unfair labor practices in the way balloting was handled in the election last year, triggering a new election.  Is this good news?  I’m not so sure about that.

            It’s hard for me to see how they have any chance of winning on this short turnaround.  The first election, unfair labor practices aside, wasn’t close, and even with the NLRB’s requirement of “laboratory conditions”, they would’ve lost.  The months go by and nothing stays the same.  After a defeat of this caliber, it usually gets worse.

            Turnover alone is a mountain to climb, and at Amazon, workers are widgets in their business model, no matter what they say.  The company would have had a huge advantage in trumpeting their victory as workers rotated in and out since the first election, and wouldn’t have needed to say to much for everyone anywhere in the Birmingham area to know that they needed to figure out which side they were on, before they even applied.

The union in various public comments even seems to be admitting that they have little chance of winning.  I hope they get the Excelsior list of all the workers and their coordinates, and withdraw from this second round to fight another day, either trying to block if they can find serious ULPs that would work, or walking away without prejudice.  There’s no honor in losing a second time on this battlefield.

            There are other ways of skinning this cat.  Talking to activists with Amazonians United recently, as well as in a special interview in this coming Social Policytheir organizing committees are getting stronger in some warehouses.  In December, they managed plant-level actions in a half-dozen sites that included marches on the boss.  The NLRB decision on six consolidated ULPs around the country strengthened the prospects for such concerted activity, if they, UFCW, and the Teamsters let the dogs out.  I also think they could put these pieces together in a geographical strategy and increase the pressure on the company more dramatically, but that’s just one organizer’s opinion for what it’s worth.

            Either way, I anticipate Bessemer with some dread, compared to the progress of other efforts at the company.  The runup to the election will once again include a lot of press, and this time it will be Debbie Downer all the way.  If the union insists on taking it on the chin, there’s no imaginable way it’s not “second verse, same as the first,” and we could add “could have been better, but will probably be worse.”