A union organising drive at Amazon’s new fulfillment centre (BMH1) in Bessemer, Alabama, a majority Black and working-class city adjacent to Birmingham, began in the late summer of 2020, when a handful of workers, fed up with stressful working conditions, intrusive monitoring and lack of safety during the pandemic, contacted the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union.
The union has a high profile in the region, where it has organised poultry workers, many of whom are African American, as are around 85% of the BMH1 workers.
From the beginning, Amazon mounted a massive anti-union propaganda campaign that included mandatory captive audience meetings, an anti-union website, and posters and stickers throughout the plant, including in the bathrooms. To guide its intimidation effort the company hired Morgan Lewis, the largest union-busting law firm in the country.
In spite of Amazon’s efforts, ballots were mailed out on 8 February. Voting ends 29 March.
It goes against stereotype that the first major union election at an Amazon warehouse is in the South. But Birmingham and its surrounding area has a long history of unionisation and strong connections between civil rights struggles and Black union workers. The workers at BMH1 see their struggle as an extension of the Black Lives Matter uprising in summer 2020.
The AFL-CIO and other unions have provided organisers to support the union drive, while several community groups have joined the fight to democratise the Bessemer facility. Workers around the country are organising solidarity actions and meeting to discuss how they might help.
• Abridged with thanks from here