Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, delivered a lopsided “no” vote in what was surely the most closely watched union election of recent years. The National Labor Relations Board announced the tally on April 9: 738 votes in favor of joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), and 1,798 against. Over 500 other ballots were left uncounted because of challenges by the company or the union, but that would not have been enough to change the outcome. All told, about 53% of the approximately 5,876 Bessemer warehouse workers cast ballots.
For union supporters it was a tough end to a campaign that drew support from a majority of the public in polls, and from figures ranging from Bernie Sanders and Stacey Abrams to the NFL Players Association and the rapper Killer Mike.
Since its founding, Amazon has aggressively fought unionization, and it did so again at Bessemer, holding antiunion meetings at work, texting antiunion messages to workers multiple times a day, and even posting anti-union messages in restroom stalls.
Based in New York, RWDSU is a semi-autonomous affiliate of United Food and Commercial Workers, representing a little under 52,000 workers in over a dozen industries. RWDSU initially sought to represent a smaller group of union supporters at the Bessemer site, but Amazon lawyers pushed to hold the vote among the full workforce, and won. RWDSU is reportedly seeking to overturn the election results on the grounds that Amazon trampled labor law in multiple ways.
“We’re not going anywhere,” declared AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka after the loss, saying the fight for justice and dignity and safety endures.