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posted by martyb on Saturday April 10 2021, @02:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the people-have-spoken dept.

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/04/the-amazon-union-drive-in-alabama-appears-headed-for-defeat/

Update: A majority of workers have voted not to form a union at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Bessemer, Alabama. The result of the NLRB's initial vote count was 1,798 votes against the union and 738 in favor. Hundreds of additional ballots were not counted because their authenticity was disputed. But the "no" side already has a majority of the 3,215 votes cast, making the issue moot.

Original story, April 8: A closely watched effort to unionize an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama appears to be headed for defeat. With about half the votes counted, 1,100 workers have voted against forming a union, while only 463 voted in favor.

The National Labor Relations Board is counting the 3,215 votes that were cast by workers at the Bessemer facility. The union needs to win at least half the votes in order to become the official representative of the roughly 6,000 workers at the Bessemer facility. Counting has ended for the evening and is scheduled to resume at 8:30 am Central Time on Friday.

Also at The Washington Post, c|net, and Al Jazeera.


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by bradley13 on Saturday April 10 2021, @02:39PM (14 children)

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 10 2021, @02:39PM (#1135682) Homepage Journal

    Unions are a mixed blessing. If the employer is being abusive (as some reports for Amazon do indicate), then a union can counterbalance that by giving the employees a united voice.

    On the other hand, look at the old unions in the rust belt. They have too much of a voice, pushing for ridiculous work rules in order to preserve jobs that should no longer exist. On top of that, the union leadership is often corrupt, becoming just another parasite sucking on both the workers and the companies. Teachers' unions are another example - remember the "rubber rooms" where schools have to put teachers they cannot fire, but cannot allow back into the classroom?

    Would a union help counter Amazon abuses? Probably. Once those abuses have been brought under control, will the union quietly retreat into the background, with the leadership giving up the power it has obtained? Unlikely. The cure may well be worse than the disease.

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Taxi Dudinous on Saturday April 10 2021, @05:09PM

    by Taxi Dudinous (8690) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 10 2021, @05:09PM (#1135731)

    Well that about covers it. Well said. I have worked for a number of unions. The teachers union in NY. I didn't know much about what went on closer to the top, but I was generally pleased to be a part of the union. Being young I enjoyed slapping the "man". I never had to spend my own money on supplies or insurance. Well, prescriptions were $1.00. Most of what I was aware of was complaints about the administration spending ridiculous amounts of money on things they did not need. Sadly things are much more lopsided today.
              I have worked in a number of places where it seemed the union was really unnecessary. The union had helped the employees at some time in the past, but there was no longer any obvious benefit to them operating, at least not to the employees. Union members got plenty out of the deal though.
              I worked for another union, which had a wildly variable need for hands from week to week and season to season. This one would hire hundreds off of the street to meet demand for labor and collect dues from every hire. But, only a select few people were actually in the union. They had very nice benefits as a result of fleecing all of the temporary workers. The pandemic hit this organization very hard, and the money that was left, very rapidly flowed straight to the top. Benefits were reduced or eliminated. Even well established members were cast aside as soon as the heads realized how tough things were going to be.
              All of the unions I have dealt with had one really annoying thing in common. The reps would make the rounds and tell us how we were expected to vote in any given election. Not a suggestion mind you. More like, "remember, you're voting for "Politicritter" of union heads choosing. Ironic how I could feel empowered by my union association one day, and then feel reduced to sheeple level or below by the organization I supported. Hmmmmm
              The tough thing here is how do you maintain balance when there is power at the top of any organization like this? Furthermore, how does one prevent the inevitable development of corruption that accompanies the power of leadership. The type of people who seek out these positions are most often the types who will abuse the power and connections that result from attaining the position in the first place. And this inevitably leads me to the reality of, "My ism is broken."

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Thexalon on Saturday April 10 2021, @07:53PM (11 children)

    by Thexalon (636) on Saturday April 10 2021, @07:53PM (#1135771)

    Teachers' unions are another example - remember the "rubber rooms" where schools have to put teachers they cannot fire, but cannot allow back into the classroom?

    I can't speak for all teachers' unions, but in my locality growing up the only time the union prevented a teacher from being fired, it was because politicians were trying to get rid of somebody with about 40 years in the classroom because they didn't like the political implications of the contents of one of his elective history courses and also opposed his political activities outside of school (he'd been arrested for passing out leaflets in a mall). They never stood in the way of firing teachers for gross incompetence or abusing students, for instance.

    Also, looking up the "rubber rooms", it certainly sounds like from the reporting that (a) this was in 1 city out of many many many jurisdictions, and (b) the union actually agitated to end the system, and (c) there was significant indications that it had been set up in part as a way for administrators to punish teachers arbitrarily, including doing it to a union rep for basically no reason. Now, you could argue "but the union should have allowed administrators to just fire whoever they want", but that would almost definitely lead to all of the most experienced and thus most expensive teachers getting fired and replaced with cheaper, less experienced teachers. The other way to have prevented the problem, which the administration noticeably didn't try to do, was to substantially speed up how long it took for complaints to be processed and hearings to be held so that, among other things, a teacher who was in fact not guilty of doing anything wrong could be put back in a classroom as quickly as possible.

    In general, I'd point out that Amazon's employee contracts, like most employee contracts these days, don't allow workers to sue Amazon for breaking US labor law. And government-initiated enforcement has been neutered for decades. That leaves workers with only unions if they want to both continue to have jobs and not have routine egregious violations of labor laws. So if you stifle unions, you're basically saying that US labor law should no longer exist, and we should become a country of sweatshops again.

    --
    The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10 2021, @08:10PM (8 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10 2021, @08:10PM (#1135780)

      In general, I'd point out that Amazon's employee contracts, like most employee contracts these days, don't allow workers to sue Amazon for breaking US labor law.

      How is that in any way legal?

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by Thexalon on Saturday April 10 2021, @08:48PM (6 children)

        by Thexalon (636) on Saturday April 10 2021, @08:48PM (#1135795)

        One of the most important legal issues you've probably never thought about: Binding arbitration clauses + class action waivers. The binding arbitration clause means that any disputes of any kind end up going not to the courts but to a private arbitrator selected by the company (and the company can and does ensure that the arbitrator will minimize how much they have to pay out). And the class action waiver means that the workers can't respond together if management does the same thing to all of them at the same time.

        The US Supreme Court has steadily and fairly quietly made that legal in more and more situations, including when state law says they're illegal.

        Yes, that's as ridiculous as it sounds, and lots of law professors and such have pointed out that this is effectively an attempt to eliminate the entirety of civil law for employer-employee relations.

        --
        The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday April 10 2021, @11:45PM (4 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 10 2021, @11:45PM (#1135846) Journal
          The obvious rebuttal to that is you're in territory that is traditional grounds for voiding a contract. If a business creates such contracts with the intent that the company can commit wrong doing and have it protected by the arbitration process, then that's a contract entered into with bad faith, maybe even fraud -such as if the business has presented the arbitrator as being independent while it was not.

          Arbitration (in the US) serves a useful purpose - it keeps a lot of crap out of the US court system which has plenty wrong with it, being costly and slow.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12 2021, @06:58AM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12 2021, @06:58AM (#1136276)

            Oh, Christ! Khallow is on another "obvious rebuttal"! Can't we form a Soylentil union to prevent such eggregious abuse?

            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday April 12 2021, @02:59PM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 12 2021, @02:59PM (#1136424) Journal
              I have an even simpler suggestion. Think before you post. This is an obvious situation that should have been anticipated by the person making the earlier post. Contracts get voided all the time for stuff like bad faith, fraud, and duress. And arbitration didn't come about because companies want to screw over workers, but because there's deep problems with arbitration via the courts.
          • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Monday April 12 2021, @09:13PM (1 child)

            by Thexalon (636) on Monday April 12 2021, @09:13PM (#1136672)

            The thing is, that requires affirmatively proving the bad intent in a court of law, in the face of a motion to dismiss before discovery starts, which means you don't have access to documents and witnesses about how the policy was created. So basically, you can't prove the contract is unconscionable, even if it is.

            --
            The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday April 13 2021, @12:49AM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday April 13 2021, @12:49AM (#1136780) Journal
              Wouldn't be the first shenanigan that requires some footwork to show.
        • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11 2021, @04:13PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11 2021, @04:13PM (#1136038)

          In a civilized society, you wouldn't be allowed to sign away that right and especially not without being compensated for the loss. Signing away your right to sue is uncomfortably close to signing up for slavery. If they want to make you work for free or violate your other rights, the only recourse is to quit or hope the owned arbitrator doesn't know which side their toast is buttered on.

      • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Monday April 12 2021, @12:41AM

        by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Monday April 12 2021, @12:41AM (#1136201) Journal

        Money, honey! When you can buy politicians and laws, you can make *anything* legal. And for the few things you can't directly, you can stall out any lawsuits (and settle the others out of sight) and in general make it so the law does not apply to you in any meaningful way. It's all about money.

        --
        I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
    • (Score: 2) by krishnoid on Saturday April 10 2021, @08:52PM (1 child)

      by krishnoid (1156) on Saturday April 10 2021, @08:52PM (#1135799)

      The union you describe seems to have protected the teachers against the worst excesses of free market capitalism, while trying to do right by the spirit of the educational system. It sounds like this union "worked properly", in contrast to the counter-examples of unions that collect dues primarily to benefit their management [youtu.be].

      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Saturday April 10 2021, @11:35PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 10 2021, @11:35PM (#1135845) Journal

        The union you describe seems to have protected the teachers against the worst excesses of free market capitalism

        W8ords mean things. "Free market capitalism" means capitalism with "free markets" more or less. It doesn't mean:

        • "politicians were trying to get rid of somebody with about 40 years in the classroom because they didn't like the political implications of the contents of one of his elective history courses and also opposed his political activities outside of school"
        • "this was in 1 city out of many many many jurisdictions"

        Politicians trying to fire people? A public school jurisdiction? Neither is free market capitalism.

  • (Score: 1) by The Mighty Buzzard on Sunday April 11 2021, @03:27AM

    Teachers' unions are currently telling members to make sure not to post vacation pictures so they can continue to argue against reopening schools, despite medical science saying "Why the fuck are you keeping the schools closed? We already said go ahead and open them back up."

    --
    My rights don't end where your fear begins.