Bernie Sanders 'Disappointed but Not Surprised' by Amazon Vote Against Unionization

Senator Bernie Sanders praised the defeated unionization effort at an Amazon warehouse, writing in a Twitter thread that organizers have "inspired workers everywhere."

At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, and when workers have little power on the job, I applaud the pro-union Amazon workers in Alabama for their courage and willingness to stand up for their rights. They’ve inspired workers everywhere.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) April 9, 2021

On Friday, Amazon clinched enough votes to beat back a labor drive at its facility in Bessemer, Alabama, which would have established the company's first U.S. union. Sanders had traveled to the warehouse in late March to support union organizers.

Nearly 6,000 employees were eligible to vote on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Of the ballots cast, 1,798 votes opposed the union and 738 votes were in favor.

"I am disappointed but not surprised by the vote," Sanders tweeted. "It is extraordinarily courageous for workers to take on one of the world's wealthiest and most powerful corporations, a company that spent unlimited sums of money to defeat the organizing effort."

Amazon thanked its employees for participating in the voting and denied it won by employing intimidation tactics in a statement released after the election.

"It's easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that's not true," the company said. "Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us. And Amazon didn't win—our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union."

The RWDSU immediately said it will be filing a legal challenge against the outcome. The group is requesting a hearing by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) "to determine if the results of the election should be set aside because conduct by the employer created an atmosphere of confusion, coercion and/or fear of reprisals and thus interfered with the employees' freedom of choice."

Stuart Appelbaum, the president of RWDSU, said the union is demanding "a comprehensive investigation over Amazon's behavior in corrupting this election." In a press conference on Friday, Appelbaum accused Amazon of harvesting ballots and said he thinks a re-run of the election is likely.

Drew Herdener, Amazon's vice president of worldwide communications, refuted Appelbaum's assertion.

"We didn't harvest ballots or say we'd shut the building down," Herdener said. "These fabrications are tiresome but expected. You're going to hear a lot of untruths from the union now because they have to explain the lopsided result and their answer can't be Amazon pays more than $15 an hour, offers health care from day one, up to 20 weeks of parental leave, and a safe, clean work environment in state-of-the-art fulfillment centers. They're going to have to come up with something else."

Sanders also addressed Amazon's reported anti-union efforts, arguing that they reinforce the need for legislation that will give workers a "fair chance to win organizing elections."

The Vermont senator added, "Workers should not be intimidated or badgered by a company because they are exercising their constitutional right to form a union."

bernie sanders u.s. capitol February 2021
Senator Bernie Sanders arrives at the U.S. Capitol on February 11, the third day of former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. On Friday, Sanders praised organizers for their attempt to unionize an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images