Skip to content

On that Amazon union election thing

Workers at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, chose to take on one of the biggest companies in the world and form a union. If they were successful, they would be the first in the company’s history. The potential for similar efforts in thousands of warehouses across the country would have risen dramatically. Amazon, America’s second-largest employer, would have been forced to contemplate an entirely new relationship with its gigantic workforce.

When the results were in, however, the analogy broke down. Goliath had won.

So, why would a company be against the formation of a union? Because of what is said here, of course. The understanding is that the creation of a union would shift power from company to workforce. So, to avoid losing that power, be against the creation of a union.

Seems simple enough, no?

From the centre of the tech trade comes this:

So inevitably the union is going to be dragging your company’s managerial layers into prolonged wage and conditions negotiations, pursuing pet causes, trying to eject people that they regard as “undesirable” – e.g. anti-union, pro-business – while trying to retain people that management regards as “undesirable” – e.g. ineffective, spending too much time on pet causes. They’re going to seek “equity” of salaries – looking for differentials by gender, race and age and poking at anomalies. Their executive is looking for a steady income stream and an increasing amount of power, and they’re not going to take “no” for an answer.

The unionization struggle, I think, is going to be over approximately 1-2 years after a union gains a significant foothold in a major tech company. The highly productive people are going to see the brake on company productivity in general, and their salaries in particular, and go looking for employment somewhere they don’t have to carry as many passengers. In the mean time, the company is going to burn.

If you don’t believe me, look at the car manufacturers in Detroit.

9 thoughts on “On that Amazon union election thing”

  1. The media and politicians want this, but there’s really no appetite for unions outside the public sector. I’ve worked in a bunch of factories and warehouses and no one cares.

    And it will be the broadcasting and entertainment unions that go next. Do you think the two man operations on YouTube are handing over money to the Writer’s Guild?

  2. Let us suppose that I am a worker unhappy with my pay or conditions.
    I could join/form a union to strongarm the company into improving things for me.
    Or I could simply find a better job.
    A century and a half ago, when workmen travelled by foot and information by word of mouth and many lived in places with few alternative jobs, the union was the least bad option, even accepting the dues, and the lost production.
    Today workmen have cars and the internet and company towns are unheard of. Finding a better job is now the least bad option.

  3. The Amazon wworkforce can unionise however they want. They are also free to found an exclusive amazon workers only Underwater Motorcycle Club.
    But amazon management can choose the time and place to meet them. Or not.

  4. Besides as Peter Sellars pointed out in “I’m all right Jack” you really need 2 unions, so as soon as one wins a pay rise the other can go on strike to restore their differentials.

  5. As a junior academic I worked in a department where the workshop staff were impressive – co-operative, skilled, friendly. I asked a senior academic how we had managed to assemble such an impressive bunch.

    He explained that they were all refugees from union shops who had decided that lower pay in the university would be more than justified by more job satisfaction – higher morale, more independence, more comradeship, and higher job security. They would never be bullied by a shop steward again.

  6. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden all spoke in favor of forming the union. The Democrats in general were ecstatic about the prospects. However, the white working class realized decades ago that the Democrats were not their friends. You are starting to see the minority working class begin to realize this. The Dems really want Amazon, and Uber, Exxon and the like off the planet. The Democrats’ remarkable achievement over the past generation or two has been to align the interest of the working class, the management, and the investors in those companies and industries that actually require working class workers and who want to keep working.

  7. . . . the white working class realized decades ago that the Democrats were not their friends. You are starting to see the minority working class begin to realize this. The Dems . . .

    . . . hold the Presidency, the Senate, the House, all the civil service and agencies, schools and academia, the media, big tech (including Amazon) . . .

    Looks like the working class may have missed the boat.

  8. Until 2022 perhaps. The Dems hold on the federal government is pretty tenuous. Since Sen Manchin has said he won’t vote to end the filibuster the Republicans can block a lot of what Biden wants to do. In any event, in the US your state’s policies likely affect your prospects more than do the fed’s, hence the migration trends we see.

    The Dems fell a long way from 2009 when they held the presidency, the house and a 60 vote majority in the Senate. If Trump hadn’t been such a wing nut he would probably have won again, but you can count on politicians always pissing people off to the point where they just want them gone.

  9. But amazon management can choose the time and place to meet them. Or not.
    If only it were so simple. Laws differ, but in general, if they can sign up “50% + 1” of the workers, the union can become their bargaining agent. Retaliation (say, by closing that particular distribution centre) is illegal, and would result in hefty fines. Ones that even Amazon / Bezos might notice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *