/What Amazon’s Alabama Union Vote Means for the Company and Workers

What Amazon’s Alabama Union Vote Means for the Company and Workers

If workers at an

Amazon.com


AMZN 1.84%

facility in Bessemer, Ala., vote to unionize, it would boost the number of workers who have opted to join a union in a state that has membership rates below the U.S. average.

But the vote, the counting of which began March 30, is also being closely watched for other reasons—among them Amazon’s position as the second-largest U.S. employer, and the prospect that a “yes” vote would buck a general trend toward dwindling private-sector union membership rates seen since the ’60s.

Unionization has fallen across a range of industries over the past two decades.

Union membership by industry

Transportation and warehousing

Healthcare and social assistance

Mining, quarrying and oil-and-gas extraction

Arts, entertainment and recreation

Professional and business services

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting

Accommodation and food services

Transportation and warehousing

Healthcare and social assistance

Mining, quarrying and oil-and-gas extraction

Arts, entertainment and recreation

Professional and business services

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting

Accommodation and food services

Transportation and warehousing

Healthcare and social assistance

Mining, quarrying and oil-and-gas extraction

Arts, entertainment and recreation

Professional and business services

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting

Accommodation and food services

Transportation

and warehousing

Healthcare and

social assistance

Mining, quarrying and

oil-and-gas extraction

Arts, entertainment

and recreation

Professional

and business services

Agriculture, forestry,

fishing and hunting

Accommodation

and food services

Amazon, which has operations in all 50 states, has roughly 950,000 employees in the U.S., none currently unionized. The company is the second-biggest U.S. employer after

Walmart Inc.,

which it is expected to overtake in the next few years.

Amazon says it has created more than 9,000 jobs in Alabama, where it has two delivery stations and five Whole Foods Market supermarkets in addition to its fulfillment and sorting center in Bessemer.

Amazon full- and part-time jobs

9,000+ jobs

in one fulfillment and sortation center, two delivery stations and five Whole Foods supermarkets

9,000+ jobs

in one fulfillment and sortation center, two delivery stations and five Whole Foods supermarkets

9,000+ jobs

in one fulfillment and sortation center, two delivery stations and five Whole Foods supermarkets

9,000+ jobs

in one fulfillment and sortation center, two delivery stations and five Whole Foods supermarkets

Alabama’s unionization rate, currently below 10%, is lower than in the U.S. broadly. But the state’s trend has followed a similar general downward line in recent decades.

There are 5,805 Amazon workers in Bessemer. If they were all to unionize, they would be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which had 18,000 members in the state as of 2020; the new workers would represent an increase of about 32%. Alabama is a right-to-work state, so workers wouldn’t be required to join the union.

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union members

23,805 If all of the 5,805

Bessemer warehouse workers unionize

23,805 If all of the 5,805

Bessemer warehouse workers unionize

23,805 If all of the 5,805

Bessemer warehouse workers unionize

23,805 If all of the 5,805

Bessemer warehouse workers unionize

The union’s estimates indicate that most of the workers at the Bessemer site are Black; nationally, about 27% of Amazon’s employees are Black. While unionization rates have fallen across racial groups in the U.S. since 2000, Black workers are most likely to be represented by a union, and organizers at the Amazon warehouse have raised themes of racial empowerment during their campaign.

Workers who are union members, by race or ethnicity

Amazon U.S. employees by race or ethnicity (as of Dec. 30, 2020)

Black or African American

Amazon U.S. employeesby race or ethnicity (as of Dec. 30, 2020)

Black or African American

Amazon U.S. employees by race or ethnicity (as of Dec. 30, 2020)

Black or African American

Amazon U.S. employees by race or ethnicity

(as of Dec. 30, 2020)

Black or

African American

Meanwhile, public support for labor unions in the U.S. has risen in recent years. Last year, it reached its highest point since 2003, according to Gallup data, rising from a low point seen during the 2008-09 financial crisis.

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