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Amazon Defeats Unionization Effort at Alabama Warehouse

People protest in support of the unionizing efforts of the Alabama Amazon workers, in Los Angeles, California, March 22, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

A high-profile unionization effort by Amazon workers in Alabama fell short Friday, as Amazon easily passed the 1,608 votes needed at its 6,000-person warehouse in Bessemer.

An early count showed that workers opted against unionization by a 1,798-738 margin, out of 3,215 ballots cast. Only 55 percent of the 5,805 eligible voters ended up voting, and 500 ballots were contested and not counted in the tally.

After a lopsided count emerged on Thursday, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which organized the effort, complained publicly that “our system is broken” and accused Amazon of “illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign.” In Alabama, a right-to-work state, workers are not required to pay union dues.

William and Lavonette Stokes, an African-American couple with five children that starting working at the warehouse last summer, said that the union effort — built around the bettering of worker conditions — left them unconvinced, considering Amazon’s current wage and benefits package.

“Amazon is the only job I know where they pay your health insurance from day one,” Ms. Stokes told the New York Times, adding that the union had turned her off by painting the effort as an extension of Black Lives Matter.

“This was not an African-American issue,’’ she said. “I feel you can work there comfortably without being harassed.”

The unionization effort drew national attention and support from both sides of the political aisle. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) wrote an op-ed arguing in favor of the union drive. “When the conflict is between working Americans and a company whose leadership has decided to wage culture war against working-class values, the choice is easy—I support the workers,” he stated. Last month, President Joe Biden released a statement in support of the effort.

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