NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – After shrinking for decades, America’s private sector labor unions could get a shot in the arm later this month as 5,800 workers for one of America’s biggest employers, Amazon.com Inc, vote by mail on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
The outcome could have far-reaching implications, not just for workers at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Bessemer, Alabama, but also for the company as a whole and the growing U.S. e-commerce sector that so far has fended off most labor organizing.
While Amazon touts higher wages and more generous benefit packages than those offered by many other service industry employers, worker Dale Richardson told VOA he voted to unionize.
“They treat us like we’re just a number — like we’re nobodies,” he said. “I’ve been there for almost a year now, doing the best work I can do, and nobody — no manager — asks me about my goals. They don’t care about us.”
Richardson points to Amazon ending worker hazard pay in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. He says he has seen coworkers reprimanded for talking during their shift and fired for taking too long for bathroom breaks.
“They give us two 30-minute breaks over a 10 or 11-hour shift, but it can sometimes take 10 minutes of that break to walk across the facility,” he said, noting the massive fulfillment center is the size of 16 football fields. “It’s not uncommon to walk all the way to the bathroom on…