Senator Recently Helped Introduce Bill to Help Protect Workers’ Right to Join a Union, Negotiate for Higher Wages and Better Benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. [2/8/21]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.)—who has long been fighting for Amazon workers, including those at the Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minn.—and a group of her colleagues are urging Amazon to do right by its workers and support workers’ efforts to freely exercise their right to organize a union.  

In their letter sent to current Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, and his successor, Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, Sen. Smith and her colleagues expressed support for Amazon workers seeking to organize a union with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The senators also pushed Amazon to take this opportunity to recognize the true value of its workers and treat them as such. This push comes ahead of an upcoming election in Bessemer, Alabama, where Amazon warehouse workers will vote on whether to form a union that will represent full and part-time workers.

 

“Amazon’s profits have soared by 70 percent over the last year because of the hard work of your employees. They have put in long hours and risked their own health during the COVID-19 pandemic to meet increased demand, and they deserve to share in the success they have made possible. Amazon’s employees have the right to join together to bargain collectively for a voice in their workplace, and to vote to establish their rights to negotiate. They also deserve to receive the compensation, benefits, and respect that reflect their true value to the company and to their communities,” wrote Sen. Smith and her colleagues. 

The senators urged Amazon to stop disgraceful attempts to coerce employees out of exercising their voices and their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. They highlighted how the expansion of collective bargaining means workers can earn higher wages, have more paid time off and negotiate improved healthcare coverage, which not only benefits employees, but also helps strengthen local economies, families and communities.   

In addition to Sen. Smith, the letter—led by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.)—was signed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). U.S. Representative Andy Levin (D-MI 9) is leading a similar effort in the House. 

The group of senators recently reintroduced the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would protect workers’ right to stand together and bargain for fairer wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces. 

You can read a copy of the letter here and access text below:

 

Dear Mr. Bezos & Mr. Jassy:

We write regarding the upcoming National Labor Relations Board election in Bessemer, Alabama, and to express our support for Amazon workers who seek to organize a union with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). We urge Amazon to take this opportunity to recognize the true value of your workers to your company’s success and treat your employees as the critical asset they are.

 

Amazon’s profits have soared by 70 percent over the last year, because of the hard work of your employees.[1] They have put in long hours and risked their own health during the COVID-19 pandemic to meet increased demand, and they deserve to share in the success they have made possible. Amazon’s employees have the right to join together to bargain collectively for a voice in their workplace, and to vote to establish their rights to negotiate. They also deserve to receive the compensation, benefits, and respect that reflect their true value to the company and to their communities.  

In a recent Executive Order, President Biden wrote that, “It is also the policy of the United States to encourage union organizing and collective bargaining.”[2] The expansion of collective bargaining can be a net benefit to workers and management. Workers who belong to unions earn higher wages, have more paid time off, and negotiate improved healthcare coverage, which not only benefit the employee, but also help to strengthen their families and communities.[3] The workers in Alabama are also focused on advancing racial equity.[4] Given the historic challenges our nation faces right now, these kinds of improvements are needed across the economy. 

Amazon should view this as an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to its stated values. Though Amazon has referred to their workers as “heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need,” Amazon’s treatment of its workforce has not always reflected that.[5] From using so-called “flex” workers to avoid paying full benefits to your employees,[6] to failing to provide complete data on COVID-19 spread in the workplace, to spying on employees seeking to organize a union,[7] Amazon has not always treated its workers with the dignity they deserve. During this campaign in Alabama, employees seeking to unionize have received misleading text messages, been overwhelmed by anti-union propaganda,[8] and faced attempts to force in person voting[9] during a pandemic that has resulted in the deaths of [nearly 500,000] Americans.[10] All of these efforts represent disgraceful attempts to coerce Amazon employees out of exercising their voices and their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

 

The upcoming election in Bessemer, Alabama is an opportunity for a reset. We ask that Amazon follow the law and allow their employees to freely exercise their right to organize this union. We will be paying close attention to the way Amazon conducts itself during this vote and call on Amazon to ensure an election for its workers in Alabama that honors the dignity of work. 

Sincerely,


[1] https://www.brookings.edu/essay/windfall-profits-and-deadly-risks/

[2] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/22/executive-order-protecting-the-federal-workforce/

[3] https://www.epi.org/publication/why-unions-are-good-for-workers-especially-in-a-crisis-like-covid-19-12-policies-that-would-boost-worker-rights-safety-and-wages/

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/25/business/amazon-union-alabama.html

[5] https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/4/8/21214117/amazon-warehouse-workers-coronavirus-senator-booker-chris-smalls-senators-letter

[6] https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/12/26/18156857/amazon-flex-workers-prime-delivery-christmas-shopping#:~:text=Amazon%20is%20cutting%20costs%20with,being%20injured%20on%20the%20job.

[7] https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/10/6/21502639/amazon-union-busting-tracking-memo-spoc

[8] https://www.vice.com/en/article/5dpkad/amazon-launches-anti-union-website-to-derail-alabama-union-drive

[9] https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/01/22/amazon-union-vote-alabama/

[10] https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/

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