Amazon - The US labor movement is learning

The US labor movement is learning

On hold for the time being: The labor dispute at Amazon in the USA

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon / AFP / Getty Images

In Bessemer, Alabama, it became clear, Amazon's ideological sovereignty in the field of “labor relations”: The fact that the employees of the logistics center there voted against union representation impressively demonstrates the power of the group: it has shown the world that it is willing and is able to defend the principle of "direct communication". The direct relationship between management and employees, with no union as a third party, is part of Amazon's strategic plan and narrative, as is constant expansion and unleashed data gathering.

Only 738 workers had voted for union representation, 1.800 against, around half did not even take part. Sure, workers were intimidated, bombarded with text messages and leaflets. But Amazon did not win the battle alone, and probably not primarily with its superior power. The company pays an hourly wage of $ 15,30. That's not much for a grueling logistics job - but twice the minimum wage in Alabama. The improvements that union representation was supposed to bring, on the other hand, were only a promise. But to be credible, you need trust. This cannot be built up if the contact with the employees is reduced to a brief exchange of words while handing over a flyer at the car window in front of the factory gate. There is no right of access to the company for unions in US labor law, the union waived door-to-door discussions because of Corona.

Not even the exceptionally union-friendly coverage of major US media could turn things around. Loud support, whether from left-wing celebrities like Bernie Sanders, from Black Lives Matter activists, and even from the US President, fizzles out if the union is not part of people's lives. That is arguably the most important lesson of Bessemer's vote.

The long struggle of the Amazon employees is not over. The truckers union is already organizing Teamsters in Iowa and parcel couriers along the supply chain without being dependent on the rules of the game of “recognition votes”. The US labor movement is learning.