Organizers learn from Amazon union organizing efforts

Union organizing picked up in recent years, especially as workers felt mistreated an underappreciated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The momentum has not stopped, as some key drives have resulted in wins for organized labor.

Working Class Perspectives contributor Wade Rathke joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the recent organizing drive at Amazon in Alabama. He touched on what could have been done differently and legislation that could have helped.

Amazon union organizing

According to Rathke, Amazon accomplished their goal of blocking the union. Spending the large sums of money they did was ultimately helpful in preventing the union from organizing their workers.

The path the organizers took was a tough one, but may have been the only choice. After barely making a showing of interest, the union immediately filed for an election. Many of the workers at the facility were temporary workers due to the holidays. They may have gone for the opportunity with a larger number of workers thinking a victory would be easier.

Hypothetically, Rathke said they could have waited until they had more support. However, the seasonal workers would then be gone. A second option could have been getting a list of eligible voters, halted the election due to poor labor practices and then work on getting the support of the workers.

The union was already behind the eight ball, as Amazon hung anti-union posters, changed the traffic light order outside of the warehouse and made it difficult for organizers to speak with workers.

Reimagining organizing

Rathke said it will be impossible to organize companies like Amazon and Walmart all at once because they are far too big. He believes the strategy that needs to be deployed is to connect with workers in individual communities.

When workers can come together over issues that affect their specific community, it is easier for a union to win. For example, healthcare may be a major problem for a large number of workers in one community, but not the next. Running that specific union drive on healthcare would gain more support and have a greater chance at success.

Rathke also said the PRO Act would have lended a hand to Amazon workers. While he said action is needed, he isn’t holding his breath that it will.


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