Recently, Amazon won a closely watched National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election against the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. But it did so only after spending millions of dollars on harassing and intimidating its workers for two months before the vote. Now, the company is using the same strategy to bust a new independent union drive at its Staten Island facility in New York.
Unions and worker rights advocates are pushing for legislation that would protect against these types of actions. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which has passed the House and is currently pending before the Senate, would limit the ability of corporate bullies like Amazon to interfere with workers’ choice to form a union.
The anti-union campaign at Bessemer provided a stark lesson on why change is desperately needed. Powerful corporations such as Amazon must no longer be allowed to bully with impunity when their employees try to improve working conditions.
Amazon’s Anti-Union “Stalking”
When she testified before the Senate Budget Committee in March, Amazon worker Jennifer Bates described the anti-union campaign at Bessemer as a form of “stalking.” Workers couldn’t escape Amazon’s anti-union message, even when they were in the stalls of the restrooms, where the company had displayed anti-union handbills. In addition to its high-paid union avoidance law firm, Morgan Lewis, Amazon spent millions of dollars on at least three different anti-union consultant firms whose job was to dissuade the Bessemer employees from supporting the RWDSU.
Weak reporting rules for anti-union consultants mean that we will never know exactly how much Amazon spent. The PRO Act would change that and bring greater transparency.
Amazon forced Bessemer workers to attend hour-long, consultant-conducted, anti-union captive audience meetings — ominously called “education meetings” — multiple times per week; if they dared speak up, their ID badges were photographed and they were expelled from the meetings. The PRO Act would prohibit these fear-inducing forced listening sessions, which are already unlawful in most developed democracies.