We’re asking some incredible organizations across the corporate accountability movement to tell you about their campaigns targeting corporations on this year’s Corporate Hall of Shame ballot. The message below is from our allies at The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the union that is organizing Amazon workers in Besemer, Alabama.
This year, all eyes were on Bessemer as workers at an Amazon warehouse attempted to do what no U.S. Amazon workers have done before: become a unionized fulfillment center.
It all began last summer when a worker named Darryl Richardson gave us a call at the Mid-South Council of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. We met with Darryl and his co-workers and listened as they detailed the mistreatment they were experiencing every single day at work.
Workers said they felt like robots.
They receive their schedules and assignments from an app rather than from a manager. Too much “time off task” while a worker is away from their station going to the bathroom or getting water? Then they’ll be disciplined; again, via an app.
Workers are expected to work at an unsustainable pace for 10-hour shifts, putting many of them in near-constant physical pain. On their short break, workers are forced to walk across a warehouse the size of several football fields stacked on top of one another — and no, they can’t use the elevators. Those are for the merchandise only.
Not to mention that for this incredibly demanding work, Amazon doesn’t pay a livable wage. And in the midst of a dangerous pandemic, Amazon stripped essential workers of their hazard pay, while then-CEO Jeff Bezos added billions of dollars to his personal fortune.
These egregious working conditions alone are enough to qualify Amazon for the Corporate Hall of Shame.
After thousands of workers had signed union authorization cards, Amazon paid anti-union consultants thousands of dollars a day to descend on the facility, walking the floor and pulling workers into captive audience meetings, to discourage them from supporting unions. Amazon put anti-union signs in bathroom stalls. They flooded the internet, the airwaves, and social media with ads spreading misinformation. They sent a relentless barrage of text messages and calls to workers’ homes, urging them to vote “no.”
Amazon even ignored the ruling of the National Labor Relations Board and placed a mailbox on the warehouse property during the union voting period, which the NLRB never approved.
Amazon used fear and intimidation to bust the union because they know that when workers come together to unionize, we can make real, transformative changes in our workplaces.