Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont democratic socialist, wrote a letter to President Joe Biden demanding that Amazon be excluded from any contract with the federal government over its handling of the union vote in Bessemer, Alabama.
Sanders argued that Amazon – which is expected to land a $10 billion cloud contract from the N.S.A. – should be barred from any government deal because “taxpayer dollars should not go to companies like Amazon and multi-billionaires like Jeff Bezos.” Taking it a step further, Sanders asked the president to ban any company that is found to have broken any federal labor law from receiving federal contracts.
But several government agencies have been found to have violated labor laws. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, was found to have violated a union contract in 2020. Would Sanders recommend the government cut ties with the VA?
Sanders’ letter was likely prompted by his recent visit to the Amazon warehouse in Staten Island that recently voted to form a union. Sanders mentioned that Amazon spent a lot of money to fight the union in both Staten Island and in Bessemer, but he didn’t mention that the union in New York has been accused of breaking the law itself.
The newly formed Amazon Labor Union has been accused of several outlandish and potentially illegal actions, including offering marijuana to workers who agreed to join the union – something the union freely admitted. Additionally, the union has been accused of intimidation and coercion of employees during the voting process.
Moreover, the Staten Island union only set up three voting booths for the worksite’s 8,000 employees, a move that likely drove down voter turnout as neutral staff members didn’t want to wait in line. After all, less than 60 percent of employees turned out for the vote.
The National Labor Relations Board – the government entity that is supposed to provide neutral oversight of union elections – even helped tip the scales in the union’s favor by purging 1,500 employees from the list of eligible voters, making it easier for the union to hit its threshold. Compare this to Amazon’s alleged wrongdoing in Bessemer.
In Alabama, very few experts believed the union effort would succeed. Still, Amazon went out of its way to make voting easy, even installing a post box at the facility to allow a safe drop-off for ballots during the pandemic.
In turn, the union accused Amazon of intimidating workers by installing the mailbox. Did the union think convenience was intimidating? Apparently so. Again, the NLRB sided with the union and called for a new round of voting in Bessemer – despite the fact that workers made their overwhelming rejection of the union clear the first time around. A final count isn’t in yet, but so far the second vote doesn’t seem to be going in the union’s favor.
Before going after employers, maybe Sanders should remember that it’s often unions themselves who often violate workers’ rights.