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What Amazon Union’s Defeat Means For The PRO Act And The Future Of Unions In The United States

The Amazon fulfillment warehouse at the center of a unionization drive is seen on March 29, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama.
The Amazon fulfillment warehouse at the center of a unionization drive is seen on March 29, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama.
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

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Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama handed the online retail giant a decisive victory when they voted against forming a union and cut off a path that labor activists had hoped would lead to similar efforts throughout the company and beyond.

After months of aggressive campaigning from both sides, 1,798 warehouse workers ultimately rejected the union while 738 voted in favor of it, according to the National Labor Relations Board, which is overseeing the process.

Of the 3,117 votes cast, 76 were voided for being filled out incorrectly and 505 were contested by either Amazon or the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which led the organizing efforts in Bessemer. But the NLRB said the contested votes were not enough to sway the outcome. About 53% of the nearly 6,000 workers cast their ballots.

In February, the Democratic-controlled House approved a bill that would make it easier for workers to form unions and bargain for higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions. President Biden recommended the PRO Act to be a part of his infrastructure package.

The “Protecting the Right to Organize” or PRO Act would allow more workers to conduct organizing campaigns and would add penalties for companies that violate workers’ rights. The act would also weaken “right-to-work” laws that allow employees in more than half the states to avoid participating in or paying dues to unions that represent workers at their places of employment.

In one of its most controversial provisions, the bill would close loopholes that allow what supporters call intentional misclassification of workers as supervisors and independent contractors in order to prevent them from joining a union.

Today on AirTalk, we’re learning more about the significance of Amazon’s triumph over the Bessamer unionization effort, what the implications could be for the PRO Act and how it all fits into the larger picture of unions in America. Questions? Give us a call at 866-893-5722.

With files from the Associated Press


Karen Weise, technology reporter for The New York Times covering Amazon; she tweets @KYWeise 

Rebecca Givan, associate professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

Nelson Lichtenstein, professor of history at the University of California Santa Barbara where he directs the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy; he tweets @NelsonLichtens1