The union’s effort to organize about 5,800 Amazon workers in Bessemer, Ala., Turned into a national story. The workers are now voting on whether they want to join the union, in an election until March 29.
I asked Noam Scheiber, which deals with workplace issues for The Times, to explain what’s going on. Our conversation follows.
David: Why has this one local election become such a big deal?
Name: Amazon is the second largest private employer in the United States. In the more than 25 years since its inception, the company has successfully resisted the union at all of its U.S. facilities, which currently count in the hundreds. But labor leaders believe that a single high-profile success will resonate across the country.
There are already signs that it may be right. Some Amazon workers who were not with the United States on Staten Island left work last year to protest the working conditions against pandemics. And the union that is trying to organize the workers in Alabama – the retail, wholesale and department store union, says he received it more than 1000 queries of other Amazon workers since the start of this campaign.
And I suppose union leaders hope that success at Amazon can lead to success elsewhere?
Yes. They feel that if they can start uniting the business in the United States, blue-collar workers have the chance for humane working conditions and a middle-class quality of life. If this is not the case, they argue, the future of employment for those who do not have a university degree will be low-paid jobs with a groundbreaking productivity quota that is heavily supervised. So they describe Amazon’s labor model, with some justification.
Amazon exerts a lot of influence on working conditions for tens of millions of other workers. When Amazon enters an industry, it often forces the competition to apply similar labor practices – partly for a fee, but also to express workers’ efficiency. Think, for example, of the shares of Walmart, Target, Kroger and Costco after Amazon announced its acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017.
Amazon and the union have made competitive claims over whether the jobs already have good wages and benefits. Can you help us understand this?
The company usually pays rank-and-file warehouse workers between $ 15 and $ 20 per hour and offers health care and retirement benefits. For a full-time worker, that’s about $ 700 a week. Amazon calls its compensation package “industry leading, ”Although most of its workers probably earn well below the national weekly median of about $ 1000 for full-time workers.
Is there reason to think that Amazon employees can earn more if they form a union?
Yes, pay for unions tends to be higher even for non-workers, not even when you control for factors such as education and experience. But I suspect Amazon is likely to raise wages, even if the union loses, because credible threats from union tends to increase wages, even at non-enterprises.
The greater benefit for workers by having a union is the negotiation of working conditions that they regularly complain about, such as the pace of work and the aggressiveness of production goals.
It was fascinating to see Joe Biden offers stronger pro-union words than any president in decades – and then see Marco Rubio, a Conservative Republican, also encourages Bessemer workers to join a union. Is it possible that unions are on the verge of growing again?
Here is an element of social contagion, in which successful activism by some workers may inspire others. We saw this during the teachers ’outings that began in 2018 in West Virginia and quickly spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona. The same thing has happened recently in digital media and among white-collar technology workers.
However, it is hard to believe that we will see a turnaround in the decades-long decline in unionization, as opposed to a slowdown in decline, without a major change in U.S. labor law. The current law offers employers huge benefits in a union campaign. They can subject workers to an avalanche of anti-union rhetoric, through forced meetings, e-mails, movements. Trade unions have no comparable way of conveying their message. And the law rarely leads to more than a slap on the wrist from employers who fire workers for supporting a union.
What would a “major change in U.S. labor law” look like?
Something along the lines of the PRO law that the House has just passed, which will dramatically increase penalties for retaliation against workers who organize. Or card control, which allows workers to unite when a majority draws cards so they can bypass a controversial election like this.
Another approach would be sectoral bargaining, in which a union could negotiate with all the major employers in an industry by, for example, having 10 to 20 percent of the workers in the industry sign. This would reduce the incentive for any employer to fight a trade union campaign for fear of competitive disadvantage. Germany, France and Norway use sectoral bargaining.
Two French architects have won the Pritzker Prize, the greatest honor, for converting old structures into new affordable housing.
Eight migrants were killed in a car accident in Texas near the Mexican border. A similar accident occurred two weeks ago in California.
The US federal minimum wage is $ 7.25 per hour. What should it be?
$ 10 to $ 14: It must differ by region to keep a job, suggests the research institute Third Way.
$ 15: A nationwide minimum of $ 15 will not cost much work, and it will reduce poverty Arindrajit Dube writes in The Washington Post. “Thirty-two million Americans will get a raise,” labor organizer Saru Jayaraman told The Argument.
$ 24: The minimum wage must match the productivity growth of the economy, as it did until 1968, The Intercept’s Jon Schwarz reason.
Cody’s World: The key to a healthy lifestyle? For Amanda Hess of The Times, it’s a peloton instructor who looks like a piece of Disney fan art.
Trade book: Were the purchases of airline necessary?
Lived: In 1976, British wine expert Steven Spurrier organized a blind tasting to compare French and California wines. The result revolutionized the industry. Spurrier died at 79.
ART AND IDEA
For sale: the details of your day
“Have you ever wanted to control my life?” asked a 15-year-old TikToker with 3.3 million followers in a recent online video. He then asks his fans which game he should play with friends – dodgeball or catch – and 78 percent choose dodgeball. Fans also voted on what he should watch, what video games he should play and what to call his pet hamster.
These interactions are an example of how new businesses are making it easier for digital creators to make money from every aspect of their lives, as Taylor Lorenz, a Times reporter, writes. One of the ventures is NewNew, where fans pay to vote in polls, like the dodgeball, to determine the creator’s daily choices. Five votes cost $ 4.99.
“No matter how boring you think you are; there is someone who will find your life interesting to the point that they are willing to pay,” said NewNew founder Courtne Smith.
Influencers join such platforms for the promise of diversification, Taylor writes, leaving them less visible to the ever-changing algorithms and payment structures of some social media giants.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
The pangram of yesterday’s Spelling Bee was hemlock. Here’s a puzzle from today – or you can play online.