Workers seeking to form the first Amazon union in the United States on Friday received a boost from an unlikely source, after Republican Senator Marco Rubio endorsed their efforts to organize it and touted it as the last. salvo of American cultural wars.
The Florida senator, who voted against increasing the federal minimum wage, accused the e-commerce giant of waging “a war on working class values” in an opinion piece. published in USA Today.
Nearly 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse – or “distribution center” – in Bessemer, Alabama, began postal voting last month on whether to unionize and have until March 29 to take their vote. decision. To be successful, the union needs 50 percent of the returned vote, plus a worker.
Acknowledging the Republican Party’s long-standing hostility to worker representation, Rubio suggested instead that workers should organize in order to resist any effort by Amazon to use its power and influence to be ” allies of the left ”.
“It is not the fault of Amazon workers that they feel that the only option available to protect themselves from bad faith is to form a union,” wrote Rubio, who ran as the Republican candidate for the election. presidency in 2016.
He added: “Today it may be the working conditions, but tomorrow it may be necessary for workers to embrace the latest fad of management’s ‘awakened’ human resources.”
He added, “The titan of Silicon Valley uses anti-competitive strategies to crush small businesses, bans conservative books, and prevents traditional charities from participating in his AmazonSmile program. Unsurprisingly, he also bowed to China’s demands for censorship. “
Amazon declined to comment.
Previously, the company focused on its base salary of $ 15 an hour, double the national minimum wage, and generous health care benefits.
In practical terms, unionization at Amazon would reduce the company’s famed ability to rapidly scale up and downsize to meet demand. In Europe, Amazon unions have successfully organized strike action, disrupting the company’s delivery capabilities.
Union representatives say concerns about conditions, such as the time allowed for bathroom breaks, are among their top concerns.
To resist the union effort, Amazon rolled out a website and advertising campaign targeting workers, warning that unions would mean it “won’t be easy to be so helpful and social with each other.”
Ahead of the Alabama vote, the National Labor Relations Board rejected Amazon’s request to hold the vote in person, rather than by mail, a move that would have increased the risk of worker surveillance and intimidation. according to union groups.
If the union vote passes, workers at the Bessemer plant will join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union, which represents around 100,000 workers, including at companies like Macy’s and H&M.
Responding to Rubio’s comments, RWDSU Chairman Stuart Appelbaum said he welcomed the “all quarterback” approvals.
“Senator Rubio’s support demonstrates that the best way for workers to achieve dignity and respect in the workplace is through unionization. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue. “
But while the senator’s endorsement underscored hostility to Big Tech on both sides of the political aisle, it further underscored the wildly divergent views on the nature of the perceived threat.
Rubio’s comments come after US President Joe Biden warned Amazon not to interfere in the workers’ vote, amid criticism of the company’s tactics, which included posting anti-union material in employee washrooms and holding mandatory meetings where employees were cautioned against the organization.
“It’s not for me to decide whether someone should join a union,” Biden said in a video statement posted on Twitter. “But let me be even clearer: this is not for the employer to decide either.”
The president’s statement came days after prominent labor groups accused him of failing to deliver on his election promise to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen”.
Some members of the labor movement have touted Alabama’s vote as a potential dam-breaking moment for Amazon workers across the United States. Earlier this year, the Teamsters Union said it was organize a union campaign at an Amazon facility in Des Moines, Iowa.