Commentary

What American Workers Really Want Instead of a Union at Amazon

| Apr 20, 2021

After an intensive, months-long election, only one-eighth of the workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama warehouse voted in favor of a union. More than twice as many voted against. Roughly half didn’t vote at all.

The election’s losers are incredulous that they could have fallen short on the merits. Challenges are already underway, accusing Amazon of unfair labor practices such as positioning a mailbox improperly. And to be sure, Amazon appears to have behaved obnoxiously, and perhaps even unlawfully in some instances.

But when nearly 6,000 workers have two months to cast ballots, and the union secures fewer than 750 “yes” votes, the idea that it has what workers want looks a bit ridiculous. Before there was Bessemer there was Chattanooga, where the UAW had Volkswagen’s active support in pursuing a two-year organizing campaign, and the workers voted “no” anyway.

Maybe, Big Labor, they’re just not that into you?

Labor activists see “pro-union” as synonymous with “pro-worker” and celebrate workers as tenacious fighters when they vote one way and as manipulated pawns when they vote the other. But faith in workers to understand and pursue their own interests should be a first principle of anyone claiming to represent them.

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Oren Cass is the executive director at American Compass.

@oren_cass