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The NFLPA Has Taken an Important Stand When It Comes to Amazon By Barrington M. Salmon

Feb. 6, 2020

The NFLPA Has Taken an Important Stand When It Comes to Amazon
By Barrington M. Salmon


( - National Football League is capping off its most challenging season yet, from games with no spectators to what is hoped is a sustained and honest focus on racial justice issues. Despite these challenges, the league has made efforts to ensure the fan experience remained intact for those unable to watch their favorite team play in person, meaning streaming service providers — such as Amazon — have taken on a much larger role.

But against the backdrop of the league’s apparent commitment to social justice, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA)’s decision to endorse a landmark unionization effort at Amazon stands in stark contrast to Amazon’s troubling treatment of its workers. With all eyes on the league for a Super Bowl unlike any other, the NFLPA is demonstrating that it will use its platform and considerable voice to speak out when companies like Amazon profit off of the league but are unwilling to treat their workers with dignity and respect. For that we commend the NFLPA.

Sports streaming marks Amazon’s latest industry disruption, as the e-commerce giant attempts to become the exclusive platform for NFL games. With full stadium capacity unlikely to be allowed any time soon because of the coronavirus global pandemic, the company appears set on tightening its grip on the $100 billion market that will only grow more lucrative in the coming years.

However, Amazon also has its eyes on Bessemer, Ala., where its warehouse workers are engaged in a historic fight for unionization. The upcoming vote is the closest that Amazon employees have ever gotten to forming a union, and organizers have been working around the clock to ensure that its workers have their voices heard on such a vital and important issue.

The NFLPA, which has long been a champion for worker issues, has been one of the most notable groups to come out in support of the workers in Bessemer. In a video posted to Twitter, current and former NFL players discussed the importance of union representation and the valuable benefits that come with it — benefits that they have access to, unlike Amazon employees nationwide.

Mail-in balloting begins on Monday, Feb. 8. According to the Washington Post, 5,805 workers will receive ballots via the mail from the National Labor Relations Board. Workers will have seven weeks to decide if they want the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to represent them. A yes vote would make the Bessemer facility the first Amazon warehouse in the United States to unionize. This is a struggle for better working conditions, higher wages and addressing other issues such as tough and uncompromising performance targets for workers, the lack of adequate bathroom breaks and overheated facilities.

Amazon’s actions in Bessemer are only its latest attempt to crush the desire and efforts of employees organizing for better wages and conditions. Amazon is not shy about playing hardball. For example, its intelligence analysts have monitored the labor and union-organizing activity of workers across Europe, while doing the same with the social media content of Amazon environmental and social justice groups. Amazon has even hired Pinkerton spies to keep a close eye on its warehouse employees. We can’t legislate morality or compassion, but this type of behavior is unconscionable and deserves to be exposed and Amazon sanctioned or punished in ways that will get its attention.

It should come as no surprise that the company pursued such an aggressive campaign against this recent push from organized labor. Amazon has flooded its workers with anti-union messaging, from carpet-bombing warehouse bathrooms with fliers to launching a glossy website that urges employees to “get the facts about joining a union.” In addition, the company opposed a mail-in unionization vote in the middle of a deadly pandemic, signaling it is willing to put its own employees in danger to keep them from organizing.

The unionization efforts in Alabama are illustrative of Amazon’s longstanding, horrific and sickening treatment of its workers, which has been seen most clearly as we contend with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it was Whole Foods cashierswarehouse employeesor hardware engineers, all evidence points to the same stark conclusion: Amazon does not care about its workers.

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