Some Capitol Hill Lawmakers Again Amazon Staff’ Try To Unionize : NPR

Workers at an Amazon facility in Alabama are voting on whether or not to type a union. Some in Congress help them, together with Michigan Democratic Rep. Andy Levin, who talks to NPR’s Noel King.


Almost 6,000 Amazon staff who work at a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., are voting by mail on whether or not to unionize. In the event that they do, this may be the primary union Amazon facility on this nation. This is Jennifer Bates, who works there.

JENNIFER BATES: I hold butterflies. And butterflies usually come to calm me, however that is – my abdomen stays full. It looks like it is getting greater and greater – stuffed with butterflies – as a result of it is nerve-wracking to assume, I do not know the way it may go.

KING: Nerve-wracking. The election ends later this month. And I ought to point out that Amazon is a monetary supporter of NPR, however we cowl them like another firm. Some lawmakers help the union, together with Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, and, after all, President Biden – additionally Michigan Congressman Andy Levin. Earlier this month, he and a gaggle of Democrats traveled to Bessemer. Good morning, Congressman.

ANDY LEVIN: Good morning, Noel. How are you?

KING: Good, thanks. What did Amazon staff there let you know about why they wish to unionize?

LEVIN: Nicely, you recognize, union elections so usually are about fundamental dignity, and that was actually true right here. I used to be shocked to study what it is actually like in there. They work in a facility that is like 14 soccer fields, and it may possibly take 10 minutes to stroll to a break room. They’ve two half-hour breaks in a 10-hour shift, so they may get successfully 10 minutes to eat lunch by the point they stroll there and again. A whole lot of them do not feel like they will go to the lavatory besides on their break. They usually’re watched and quantified each second. They’re monitored visually, listening, geopositioning. And each second they are not on activity is measured. And if they’ve a sure variety of minutes off-task in every week, they might be fired. Typically, there won’t even be an individual concerned. It was actually sort of dehumanizing to me.

KING: Right here is the argument that Amazon makes. Amazon says, look; our staff earn $15 an hour, which is an effective wage in a spot like Bessemer, Ala. A few of them have well being advantages, 401(ok)s. Basically, they have the advantages {that a} union would get them. They do not want a union. What do you make of that argument?

LEVIN: I might like to inform that argument to any Nationwide Soccer League participant, any actor in a film, any presenter on main tv or radio networks, all of whom have a union – each single one. The concept that unions are just for people who find themselves probably the most poorly paid, it is ridiculous. The one one who’s unionized at each airline is the pilot. So this argument is ridiculous.

These staff deserve a seat on the desk to debate a secure office throughout a pandemic. They deserve a seat on the desk to have a office that is human and that an actual individual can go to and, nice, make $15 an hour. Amazon ought to pay them much more. The proprietor of the corporate, the principle proprietor, had his wealth improve $78 billion throughout a pandemic, they usually’re bragging…

KING: Jeff Bezos.

LEVIN: …About pay – Jeff Bezos – they usually’re bragging about paying individuals $15 an hour. What’s mistaken with staff having their very own group simply in order that they will have enter of their work lives? And that is all these persons are in search of is a seat on the desk.

KING: Throughout this journey to Alabama that you simply went on, your colleague, Congressman Jamaal Bowman, mentioned, this does not cease with Amazon. He talked about Lyft, Uber, Tesla and Walmart as effectively. What’s the final aim right here?

LEVIN: The aim is for staff to have the ability to type a union and discount collectively in the event that they darn effectively please. Noel, we’re down to six% of personal sector staff on this nation needing a union. We’ll cross the PRO Act within the Congress, and the president goes to assist lead us into a brand new period when staff can have a say on the desk. It is gone time on this nation.

KING: Michigan Congressman Andy Levin, thanks.

LEVIN: Thanks.

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