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After Amazon. Labor is trying to regroup after the loss of Alabama

WASHINGTON (AP) – Despite the strongest public support in recent years, the most sympathetic president, the American labor movement simply suffered a fierce defeat again.

In Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon, warehouse workers voted overwhelmingly against joining the Retail, Wholesale մի Union, which was announced in the run-up to Friday’s election.

Amazon և business groups noted the decision, saying that warehouse workers had the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of union membership and voted to reject it.

But labor activists say the unanimous vote shows how unfair competition is against trade union efforts, and that Congress needs to reform US labor law. The House passed legislation last month to protect the Right to Organize (PRO), but it is likely to die in the Senate.

Bessemer’s results “reveal the broken system of union elections,” said Celine McNicholas, a working adviser at the Institute for Left Economic Policy. “It is clear that if policymakers do not reform our nation’s labor law system, they are in fact denying workers a significant right to trade union-collective bargaining.”

The retailer complains that Amazon plastered the Alabama workplace with anti-union posters, forcing employees to sit in mandatory sessions during which the company discredited the union. On the contrary, the organizers of the work had to catch the employees outside the warehouse gate to raise their voices.

“The law failed employees,” said Benjamin Sachs, a professor of labor law at Harvard Law School. “The law gives employers too much leeway to interfere with workers’ ability to choose to join a union. That choice must be made not by the employers, but by the workers. ”

Amazon supporters say the company was paying an average of $ 15.30 an hour, more than double the minimum wage in Alabama, offering health care and other benefits. “Trade union representation is the choice of workers,” said David Frances, spokesman for the National Retail Federation. “But many obviously prefer opportunities in a competitive market that provides strong wages and benefits.”

Randy Corgan, National Director of Amazon International Team Brotherhood, rejected the idea that Amazon was paying a competitive wage when in some states $ 15 an hour was the minimum wage. Korgan said that as a warehouse worker, he earned more than $ 15 an hour in the early 1990s.

“Using the minimum wage as a barometer is a huge mistake,” Korgan said. “This is not a minimum wage job, for any employer to take with them, to use it as a guide, they show that they do not understand how difficult this job is.”

American unions have been in decline for decades. According to the Congressional Research Service, the percentage of unionized workers peaked at 34.8% in 1954. Last year, their share of employees fell to 10.8%, according to the Department of Labor.

The Union of America is one of the lowest in the world. It compares with 90% in Iceland, 67% in Denmark, 28% in Canada and 17% in Germany, according to the International Labor Organization.

Workers’ activists say companies regularly punish workers who try to form unions and get rid of them. Even when employees agree to merge, companies often negotiate viciously. “The current system expects a degree of heroism from the people that many of us do not have,” says Thomas Geogegan, a union labor lawyer and author.

Economists attribute the decline of trade unions to the rise of the richest Americans and everyone else since the heyday of the 1950s. The unions were not only raising salaries for their own members. They also effectively pressured employers to offer better pay and benefits.

Harvard University տնտես University of Washington Economists 2011 The study showed that the collapse of organized labor accounted for at least one-fifth of the increase in inequality between 1973 and 2007.

As concerns about inequality have grown, so has public support for trade unions. Last year, Gallup reported that 65% of Americans support trade unions, the highest level since 2003, up from 48% in 2009.

The unions also have Democratic control over the White House and Senate, which support the White House. President Biden has vowed to be “the most naive president he has ever seen.” During his trade union trip to Bessemer, he clearly supported the right of workers to choose a trade union and defended PRO law.

The Act 225-206, passed by the House, will revert to the Labor Law Act currently in force in the 27 states, which does not allow unions to collect fees from workers who refuse to join but also benefit from union contracts.

It will also give trade union organizers more control over how trade union voting takes place, and empowers the National Labor Council to fine companies that do not comply with the council’s mandate.

But the Senate does not seem to have the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster, which will ultimately ruin the effort. “The Democratic Party can not deliver the case because of the threads,” said Geogegan. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Even without a legislative victory, he said Biden could boost unions by saying that companies with collective agreements lead federal contracts.

Michael Lind, founder of the New America think tank and author of The History of the American Economy, says that American trade unions hinder their organization. Company by company or workplace by workplace, as in the case of Amazon warehouse Bessemer Unlike many European countries, union representatives are organized by industry or industry.

“Let’s just assume that enterprise-based bargaining is a rotten building,” Lind said. “Let’s start from scratch with sectoral bargaining.”

Adam Ryan, a 32-year-old Virginia Part-time Target worker who founded the Target Workers Unite in 2019 group, says unions have for years focused more on contract negotiations than radical strikes they have staged. were decades ago.

“Many times the stereotypes that corporations use to prevent people from joining unions are mostly true. “The idea that they are third parties, they are taxing your salary, they really do not do much for you when you need them,” he said.

Ryan argues that unions need to reform themselves “to change people’s attitudes, or that people need to learn that there are different strategies for organizing work that may be class-based.”

Others say that despite a series of long-term labor losses, it is too early to leave the unions. Philip Dray: “There is strength in the union. The author of the book “The Epic History of American Labor” recalls the protracted struggle of the United Automobile Workers to unite the workers of California and Cesar Chavez to unite California farms.

“Working groups have never been easy to adapt to this country,” said Dray. “Unions have often lost in the struggle against the vast opposition, only to continue or win the war.”


D’Innocenzio reports from New York. AP Business Writer Alexandra Olson contributed to this story in New York.


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