Alabama Could Be Home To Amazon's First Unionized Warehouse In The U.S.
Amazons first unionized warehouse in America. That groundbreaking prospect is playing out in an unlikely place Alabama if workers from a facility near Birmingham vote to unionize next month. They would turn a new page not only for the company but also the region. MPR's Alina Cell yuk reports long before the warehouse was even built. Local officials called it a game changer. Amazon is coming to the funeral of government, the city of Bessemer, Alabama, Birmingham's working class suburb, a shadow of the steel and mining hub. It used to be. Amazon jobs paying over double the local minimum wage, promised a shot in the arm. Here's mayor kind of Cali talking about Amazon's arrival on Birmingham, CBS, 4200 and 30 Year. History of the city of Boston market is the largest single investment. But less than a year after the facility opened, it became a different kind of game changer. Amazons First American warehouse to get to a union election. Next month, 5800 workers of the best more warehouse will begin voting on whether to join the retail wholesale in department store union. Here's President Stuart Apple bound for things that is most important for them is to be treated with respect, he says. Best in more workers reached out to the union quietly in the summer, describing ruling productivity quotas wanting more say In how Amazon staff work how they get disciplined or fired a support system mobilized from unionized workers around the region, many from poultry plants Within months, the union says more than half of the warehouse workers signed cards to petition for unionization, leading the National Labor Relations Board to schedule an election. I believe that the pandemic opens a lot of people size, they understand now better than they ever did before. That they need a collective voice to stand up for themselves and to protect themselves. Jim spits. Lee has wanted that voice for years. He works down the interstate from the best summer warehouse at a Mercedes Benz plant, and he's watching this Amazon vote with interest because his factory was the epicenter of the last high profile labor battle in Alabama. You know, That's what it all comes down to is getting that vote and we haven't got that in 25 years. On three accounts. They came close in the 20 tens when the United Auto Workers Union tried to make inroads at foreign auto plans moving to the American South. They're coming here because of the fact that there is not fear of unions. You know, they're saying that we're just not educated, you know, country bumpkins and whatnot. They don't know nothing about unions and don't care. Nothing. Anti union sentiments are comin around the region, Alabama and many states around it have right to work laws, which mean every worker can choose not to pay union dues. Here's Michael in this human is a professor of the University of Alabama. The billboard that I'll never forget. Do you want Tuscaloosa to be the next Detroit? You know there's still race in there, too, obviously, But, you know, seeing this post industrial city in a lot of pain and blaming that on the union's spits lease plans never got a union election. At several auto plants in the region. Workers voted against joining the U A W even at folks Wagon and Tennessee, where the company welcomed unionization. Now specially wonders if an Amazon Union might shake things up. It'll it'll send not a tsunami ripple, but it it's gonna send one of all the Southern States Industry menace points out. Alabama actually has the highest percentage of unionized workers and best summer specifically has union history. Now It's a community that's predominantly black. The Amazon Union campaign is evoking social and racial justice themes, union president Applebaum says in the South labor and civil rights struggles have often been intertwined. We have a proud tradition of being involved in the civil rights movement, and we see the effort that Amazon at this warehouse is being a continuation of that. Amazon has argued that the workers pushing to unionize do not represent the majority of its staff's views. The company touts its pay and benefits and it's pushing to delay the election, appealing for the vote to take place in person instead of by mail, despite current virus concerns. Lena Cell Yuk NPR news