On Tuesday, Feb. 22, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) released a statement announcing the filing of Unfair Labor Practice charges against Amazon alleging illegal union-busting actions by the company in the re-run union election in Bessemer, Alabama. The re-run began earlier this month following an NLRB ruling that Amazon had engaged in misconduct that compromised the results of the election held in March of last year.
The statement by the RWDSU states that Amazon has continued its “efforts to undermine and suppress workers’ right to a free and fair election.” The union is charging Amazon with three allegations, including Amazon removing pro-union fliers in break rooms, introducing a new rule to limit workers’ access to the facility outside of working hours, and violating labor law with its mandatory “captive audience meetings” common in union-busting campaigns.
Anthia Sharpe, who is an Bessemer Amazon associate and an organizing committee member, spoke out against the company violating labor law by taking down union flyers: “Our organizing committee has worked hard to post our pro-union messaging fliers next to Amazon’s anti-union ones in the facility, as is our right under the law. I personally have hung up so many fliers on my very limited break time and during unpaid time off. I’ve done it because I so strongly believe we need to bring change with a union here. Not only was it discouraging to see our hard work removed, but it concerned us who was doing it given we know it’s protected under the law. When we heard from our co-workers that management was intentionally silencing us and removing our fliers, it explained where the chilling effect among our co-workers was coming from.”
Another Amazon worker and organizing committee member, Serena Wallace, breaks down Amazon removing their flyers as a union-busting tactic: “You can see our faces on these fliers. We are the union, and we will not stand for our messages to be ripped down. How dare they literally tear up our faces. It’s scare tactics plain and simple. I know my rights, and I know that this work is critical to ensuring we have a shot at equal time with our co-workers on why we think voting to unionize is our best chance at a better future.”
Wallace goes on to state that although Amazon’s going full force against their union campaign: “We will not be threatened, we will keep posting these and other fliers. Amazon is up to its same intimidation tactics. It must be stopped and we must be permitted to have a truly free and fair election.”
The union’s second allegation exposes how Amazon is trying to prevent workers from being able to talk with each other in an attempt to alienate workers from their union and only let workers hear the company’s anti-union messaging.
Significance of the charge against captive audience meetings
RWDSU’s third allegation uses National Labor Rights Act Section 7 “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” in addition to workers right to “to refrain from any or all such activities.” RWDSU is arguing that Amazon’s anti-union meetings that are mandated for workers while on the clock are in violation of worker’s right to “to refrain from any or all such activities.”
Amazon has held captive audience meetings since the beginning of this campaign. Captive audience meetings are required meetings the company uses to spout anti-union propaganda and intimidate workers into opposing their union. This is a common tactic used by bosses to try to squash union organizing — even at the expense of their company’s day-to-day production since companies conduct these mandatory anti-union meetings while the workers are at work.
Roger Wyatt, a BHM1 worker and organizing committee member shares what these meetings are like: “Being forced to attend the captive-audience anti-union trainings was degrading. Amazon treated us like mindless robots, downloading mis-information to us.”
Wyatt pointed out the contradictions of Amazon’s actions: “And the irony is, these meetings are the longest I’ve ever gotten to sit at work. If it’s impossible to allow me adequate break and bathroom time, why is it possible, let alone mandatory, for me to sit through hours of anti-union trainings? It should be our choice if we have to sit through one-side’s arguments or not, it’s protected under the law and needs to be stopped permanently.”
If the NLRB decides to charge Amazon with RWDSU’s third charge, it could potentially set a precedent where workers involved in new organizing campaigns who are being forced to attend the boss’s mandatory captive audience meetings, would allow for workers to hear pro-union messaging for the same amount of time.
Amazon worker and organizing committee member Steven Brogdon, voted ‘no’ last time after hearing all the anti-union lies during these meetings, but now will be voting ‘yes.’ He said, “When I think about the union election, I think of two sides and that people need to hear both sides, but in a captive audience meeting people are only hearing one side.” Brogdon asks, “But what if we didn’t have this chance? We should have a choice whether or not to be subjected to these meetings — it’s our right under the law. If the company gets to speak, their opponent should as well.”