The New York Times ran a piece yesterday entitled Why Amazon Workers Sided With the Company Over a Union . The article purports to explain why Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama sided with Amazon and did not vote for a union in the recent election.
It may be true that less than half of the high turnover Amazon workforce cast a ballot, and, of course, there was a bit of coercion by Amazon (not described beyond a mention in the article), but in the end, Amazon won. The Times concludes that Amazon workers mostly love their company, which is doing its best to take good care of them. The blurb under the headline lays out the bones of their story: Pay, benefits and an aggressive anti-union campaign by the company helped generate votes at a warehouse in Alabama.
The caption under picture of a philosophical looking Amazon worker at the top of the article reads: “I personally didn’t see the need for a union,” said Graham Brooks, an employee at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. “If I was being treated differently, I may have voted differently.”
I really don’t understand the motives of the New York Times in running this kind of student-edited high school newspaper analysis, outside of their reflex to preserve the status quo. Unless they received a direct payment from the world’s richest anti-union man.
I suppose either one is reason enough to run an article that makes no mention of the inhuman productivity demands of a company with an annual 100% attrition rate, forcing workers to endure very limited bathroom breaks and routinely firing and publicly vilifying “troublemakers”. Reason enough to make no mention of the millions of dollars Amazon spent on a relentless coercive campaign (by this platinum company with a solid history of intimidating workers who make complaints) to defeat unionization among their well-paid, health benefit receiving employees, 25% of whom left their excellent, well-paying jobs with benefits during the three month unionization drive in Bessemer, Alabama.
Why not start the article with the highly representative Mr. Brooks, an Amazon worker who loves his job, which pays him $62 a week more than his last employer, and voted against the union? Check. Then, feature the worker with brain cancer, very grateful for the health care Amazon provides every worker from day one, which literally saved her life.
For balance, give the opinion of another worker who would have voted for the union, in spite of a poor sales pitch by the union rep, but quit her job after a few months, along with 25% of the entire workforce during the preceding three month period, because working conditions (not mentioned in the Times article) were so bad she had to quit, even during these economic hard times for so many. She also gave up her health benefits, during a pandemic. We’ll let the Times take it:
Patricia Rivera, who worked at the Bessemer warehouse from September until January, said many of her co-workers in their 20s or younger had opposed the union because they felt pressured by Amazon’s anti-union campaign and felt that the wages and benefits were solid.
“For a younger person, it’s the most money they ever made,” said Ms. Rivera, 62, who would have voted in favor of the union had she stayed. “I give them credit. They start you out and you get insurance right away.”
Ms. Rivera left Amazon because she felt she wasn’t adequately compensated for time she had to take off while quarantining after exposure to Covid-19 at work, she said.
Amazon, in a statement after the election, said, “We’re not perfect, but we’re proud of our team and what we offer, and will keep working to get better every day.”
The reader is left with no information about the inadequate compensation Amazon offered Ms. Rivera for taking health precautions after being exposed to Covid-19 at the Amazon warehouse. Was it possibly zero? Bezos famously called on Amazon workers with remaining sick leave to give those days to fellow-workers who were forced to stay home due to Covid-19 infections contracted at Amazon.
At this point in the article, for the sake of fairness, you can mention that the points raised by several interviewed who voted against the union echoed the points endlessly hammered by Amazon at mandatory anti-union meetings. There was the concern that unionization might lead to the end of health and retirement benefits (which Amazon would be forced to do if the workers were allowed to have a union?). Check. Here you go:
Other workers said in interviews that they or their co-workers did not trust unions or had confidence in Amazon’s anti-union message that the workers could change the company from within. Often, in explaining their position, they echoed the arguments that Amazon had made in mandatory meetings, where it stressed its pay, raised doubts about what a union could guarantee and said benefits could be reduced if workers unionized.
When a union representative called her about the vote, Ms. Johnson said, he couldn’t answer a pointed question about what the union could promise to deliver.
“He hung up on me,” she said. “If you try to sell me something, I need you to be able to sell that product.”
So, you see, Times reader, unions themselves can’t justify the need for a union. See for yourself, from the next paragraph.
Danny Eafford, 59, said he had taken every opportunity to tell co-workers at the warehouse that he strongly opposed the union, arguing that it wouldn’t improve their situation. He said he had told colleagues about how a union let him down when he lost a job years ago at the Postal Service.
No reason to mention the consultants Amazon paid $3,200 a day for their expert work defeating the union drive, or the US postal service mail box for ballots Amazon managed to have installed on-site to monitor who was voting, when you can highlight the pro-union former Amazon worker who was turned off by an union representative’s less than convincing pitch on the phone.
Not a sentence about Amazon’s storied history of spending millions to intimidate and vilify workers who are uncomfortable working during a pandemic at a crowded workplace where a significant proportion of workers contract Covid-19 from unsafe working conditions. No mention of the need of tens of thousands of happy, well-paid Amazon workers to urinate in bottles in order to keep up with their demanding production requirements. Here’s as close as the NY Times gets to describing those conditions, quoting Amazon lover Mr. Brooks:
Many of the workers at the warehouse have complaints about Amazon, wanting shorter hours or less obtrusive monitoring of their production. Mr. Brooks and others said they wished their 10-hour shift had a break period longer than 30 minutes because in the vast warehouse, they can spend almost half their break just walking to and from the lunchroom.
Turnout for the vote was low, at only about half of all eligible workers, suggesting that neither Amazon nor the union had overwhelming support.
The article ends on this upbeat note, from the generous Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon:
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, said Thursday in his annual letter to investors that the outcome in Bessemer did not bring him “comfort.”
“It’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees — a vision for their success,” he wrote.
Since neither Amazon nor the union had overwhelming support, why not call the article Why Amazon Workers Sided With the Company Over a Union, you contemptible corporate shills?