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Amazon staff harassed in anti-union drive in Alabama

ONLINE retail giant Amazon faced a wave of demonstrations  across the US on Saturday after it was accused of threatening workers as part of union-busting tactics in Alabama.

Some 6,000 workers at the southern state’s processing centre in Bessemer are currently being balloted on whether to unionise with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) in what could be a landmark deal.

If they win, their victory could signal the beginning of a breakthrough, and become the first Amazon facility in the US to unionise. The ballot is seen as a potential game-changer for the industry.

But Amazon has pulled out all the stops to block the union. Bosses were accused of sending “harassing text messages” at least five times a day to workers’ phones and put up anti-union posters all over the warehouse, including staff toilets, calling for a no vote. 

A company website declares that a union “is a business that makes money from dues” demanding loyalty to improve the business.

RWDSU leader Stuart Appelbaum described conditions in the warehouse as being akin to technologically enabled slavery in a recent conversation with the Independent Media Institute. 

“People are being dehumanised and mistreated by Amazon,” he said. “People get their assignments from a robot, they’re disciplined by an app on their phone, and they’re fired by text message. Every motion they make is being surveilled.”

Writing in People’s World on Saturday, CJ Atkins said: “Bessemer could be the link that moves the whole chain, sparking a qualitative shift for the whole labour movement. 

“We all have a stake in the struggles of these workers, and they need our solidarity. The lengths Amazon is going to in order to stop them proves it.”

At least 20,000 Amazon workers contracted Covid-19, according to the company. Its CEO Jeff Bezos added $75 billion (£55bn) to his wealth during the pandemic, making him the world’s richest man.

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