Online shopping has seen a recent spike due to COVID-19 restrictions in stores. Amazon and Amazon Prime memberships have allowed for individuals to shop from the comfort of their own homes very easily. But, who is doing all of the work packaging, shipping, and delivering these purchased goods in person? And what do they think of their working conditions through all of this? Having more than 1.2 million employees now, Amazon has had many workers campaign against the company’s influence on climate change, improper wages, and other issues.

A group of workers from a Bessemer, Alabama Amazon warehouse decided to get together to discuss their opinions on the topic. This was the largest and most viable effort seen, so far, to unionize Amazon. Having called in an organizer from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), they began to discuss unionizing last Summer. There have been other attempts at unionizing Amazon, the last being in 2014 when a small group of technical workers from a warehouse in Delaware ended up voting against forming a union. This specific campaign has seen a much larger amount of support from employees. By December of last year, over 2,000 workers had signed their names in support of a vote to join a labor union and the National Labor Relations Board has indicated that there was a “sufficient” amount of interest among the warehouse’s 5,800 workers.

So, what is a union and why would they want to join one? Labor unions have been around since the early 1800s. Labor unions were created to offer protection and rights for workers. This would enable representation of workers through management, fair pay, safe and sanitary working conditions, and fair hours. A large concern for many, since the pandemic started especially, has been diversity and inclusion in the work place. The Union organizers have built their campaign on the foundations of other movements such as the Black Lives Matter Movement. The New York Times pointed out that “Many of the employees at the Amazon warehouse are Black, a fact that the retail union has used to focus on issues of racial equality and empowerment.” This campaign has gained support from many, including President Biden and Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders.

This sounds great, why would they not vote in favor of joining a union? The biggest con to joining a union for many is that, once a part of a union, employees are required to pay dues to said union. On a website created by Amazon, the now nonoperational, it was suggested that union dues could total about $9.25 a week for a full-time employee. That may not seem like much at first, but that adds up to $481 annually, leaving less money for employees to use on personal necessities. The website says, “Why not save the money and get the books, gifts and things you want?”

The vote took place on April 9. Surprisingly, to many, the campaign for a union was voted against decisively. The 1,798 votes against the forming of a union squashed the 738 votes for it. Because of the vote, Amazon has had some backlash from the public and its customers as to whether or not the company cares for its employees. However, the company has relayed time and again that they offer many benefits for its workers. Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener has spoken against the claims that the RWDSU made against Amazon. Also stated in the Washington Post, Herdener stated “these fabrications are tiresome but expected. You’re going to hear a lot of untruths from the union now because they have to explain the lopsided result and their answer can’t be Amazon pays more than $15 an hour, offers health care from day one, up to 20 weeks of parental leave, and a safe, clean work environment in state-of-the-art fulfillment centers.”

Despite the results of the vote, those campaigning for the formation of a union at Amazon have yet to give up. Speaking on behalf of these workers, the RWDSU has made claims against Amazon stating that the company intimidated its workers into voting against a union through its own campaigns. These included its DoItWithoutDues website, “vote no” flyers posted in bathroom stalls, text messages sent to workers on a regular basis, changing the traffic lights outside of the facility, “held ‘captive audience’ meetings with workers to dissuade them from voting “yes”, and spent nearly $10,000 a day on union-busting consulting firms,” (theguardian). It is difficult to say what will happen next, but it looks like this dispute has sparked interest and complications at many other companies in the nation.