Home Business Labor Secretary Marty Walsh predicts more Amazon unionization efforts

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh predicts more Amazon unionization efforts

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US Labor Secretary Marty Walsh doesn’t think Amazon has seen the end of efforts to unionize its warehouse workers.

Walsh says labor organizing is likely to continue within the e-commerce titan and other big companies even though staffers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama warehouse voted against joining a union last week.

“I don’t think you can judge the fate of labor on one vote,” Walsh told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Wednesday, noting that the Alabama union election was the first ever for Amazon fulfillment center workers.

“I think there will be other conversations as we move forward in the country, in other companies as well as Amazon,” he added.

The closely watched Bessemer vote marked a victory for Amazon — which aggressively campaigned against the union push — and a loss for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union that would have represented the warehouse workers.

Just 738 of the 3,041 employees who cast ballots voted in favor of joining the union while 1,798 voted against unionization, according to the National Labor Relations Board.

A protester at the University of Washington
A protester at the University of Washington is pictured during a rally at the Amazon Spheres and headquarters in solidarity with Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, in Seattle, Washington on March 26.
AFP via Getty Images

The lopsided result came despite strong support for the union drive from labor groups and political figures including President Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Marco Rubio.

In his Tuesday interview with the Journal, Walsh said he respected staffers’ rights to reach their own decisions about joining a union but stressed that all workers “deserve a seat at the table” to discuss workplace policies and conditions.

He also called Amazon employees’ accounts of their working conditions “disturbing.” Warehouse staffers have complained about grueling quotas that sometimes force them to pee in bottles.

Darryl Richardson
Darryl Richardson, an Amazon employee, speaks in support of the unionization of Amazon.com, Inc. fulfillment center workers outside the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) office on March 26 in Birmingham, Alabama.
AFP via Getty Images

“Every worker in every company should have the proper workplace protections,” Walsh told the Journal.

Asked for comment, Amazon referred to a blog post it published after the vote last week standing by how it treats workers.

“Our employees are the heart and soul of Amazon, and we’ve always worked hard to listen to them, take their feedback, make continuous improvements, and invest heavily to offer great pay and benefits in a safe and inclusive workplace,” the company wrote Friday.

An Amazon-sponsored billboard urging employees to return their unionization ballots is seen on March 28 in Bessemer, Alabama.
An Amazon-sponsored billboard urging employees to return their unionization ballots is seen on March 28 in Bessemer, Alabama.
Getty Images

Amazon also rejected the RWDSU’s allegations that it intimidated employees into voting its way. The union has accused Amazon of interfering in the voting process and said it would file a complaint with the NLRB seeking a hearing “to determine if the results of the election should be set aside.”