Pro-unionization protests have taken place in several major Texas cities, a state infamous for anti-union, “right to work,” labor laws. Across the state, Texas workers are equally fed up with horrifying labor conditions and are fighting for the right to safe, well-paying, unionized jobs.
Beginning Feb. 8, approximately 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama began voting by mail on whether or not to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. This vote, which concludes on March 29, comes in response to the harsh working conditions at Amazon warehouses, along with Amazon’s refusal to adopt measures to protect workers from COVID-19.
These predominantly Black workers are on the cusp of launching a historic new chapter in worker organization, fighting back not only against one of the biggest and most powerful corporations in the world, but also the long history of racist, and anti-union laws which suppress labor across the South.
In San Antonio, a few dozen people gathered in the parking lot of a local Whole Foods (owned by Amazon) located in the Alamo Quarry shopping center. The protesters were almost immediately confronted by private security and told to vacate the premises. Taking the long way out of the shopping center, shouting chants in support of the Bessemer Amazon workers as they went, the protesters walked a lap around the Quarry shopping center as passing motorists honked in support.
After chanting and speaking around the shopping center for an hour, the protesters returned to the parking lot in front of the Whole Foods to continue their protest. Shopping center security immediately confronted them again, threatening to call the police to disperse the protesters, a violation of their First Amendment right to assemble.
This lasted for an additional 30 minutes before protesters dispersed peacefully, and of their own free will.
In Dallas, around 40 demonstrators marched a half mile to rally in front of an Amazon Fulfillment Center in solidarity with Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama. Chants like, “What’s disgusting? Union busting! What’s outrageous? Amazon wages!” could be heard as passing cars honked and cheered in support. Local union representatives spoke about the insufferable conditions they endured before joining a union and the collective power of organizing.
One union worker shared his personal experience working at an Amazon Fulfillment Center in Tennessee. He described the work as being more physically grueling than his previous job in construction. This worker was fired because he suffered a neck injury on the job. He told the crowd that Amazon is capable of firing anyone for any reason, a sentiment echoed by the Alabama workers.
Organizer Cooper Feste of the Party for Socialism and Liberation enumerated the lies that corporations tell their workers, such as the outrageous claim that “unionizing takes away the voice of the worker,” and dispelled these myths as the crowd booed down the corporate propaganda.
Southern workers are organizing, from Texas to Alabama!
The protests in San Antonio and Dallas amplified the righteous discontent workers feel when large companies like Amazon obstruct employees from organizing their workplaces. As the pandemic death toll from corporate greed grows, workers are demanding proper safety regulations, personal protective equipment, job security, and a living wage.
Republicans and Democrats alike have written off the Deep South as “backward” and believe that workers are too reactionary, cowardly, or downtrodden to fight for their well-being. In fact, there is a strong link between labor organizing and the movement for Black Lives. Those movements, along with countless other struggles for justice, are coming together from Texas to Alabama. As working people — especially Black people — begin to flex their collective power, we will begin to see how strong the fight can become. When we organize and fight together, we win!
The rallying cry of the moment? “Jeff Bezos run and hide — the South is getting organized!”