November 28, 2023

“Everywhere they tried, they were defeated,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California at Santa Barbara, of the unions. “Walmart would send teams to flood the stores and work against a union. You are good at it. “

As with Walmart, union leaders felt it was crucial to get a foothold on Amazon, which affects the pay and working conditions of millions of workers due to the competitive pressures they put on competitors in industries like food and fashion.

But the labor movement’s failure to gain a foothold at Walmart, despite investing millions of dollars, has affected their deliberations at Amazon. “They felt so burned trying to get Walmart organized and basically got nowhere,” said Ruth Milkman, an occupational sociologist at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

It was only a relatively small union, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, that felt the Alabama election was worth the big investment. While the votes were being counted, Stuart Appelbaum, the union’s president, attributed the one-sided result to a “broken” electoral system that favored employers.

Amazon saw things differently. “It’s easy to predict that the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true,” the company said in a statement. “Our employees have chosen to vote against joining a union. Our employees are the heart and soul of Amazon, and we’ve always worked hard to listen to them. “

But while elections have often proven to be pointless, over the years work with an alternative model – what Dr. Milkman described it as “air war plus ground war” – achieved some success.

The idea is to combine measures in the workplace like strikes (ground war) with pressure on company executives through PR campaigns that highlight working conditions and gain support from public figures (air war). The Service Employees International Union used the strategy to organize janitors from the 1980s and generate profits for fast food workers in recent years, including wage increases across the industry.