How prominent are unions in America

The world's largest online retailer Amazon has won the eagerly watched vote on the first union in a US location. Even if the count was still ongoing, it was already clear on Friday that the majority of employees in Bessemer, Alabama, had decided against employee representation. At least 1608 out of a total of 3215 votes were against joining the trade union RWDSU.

Should the result not be overturned, the multibillionaire Jeff Bezos' group would have won the historic election and prevented the first breakthrough by a US employee representative body in its 27-year history. However, the RWDSU announced that it would contest the result and accused Amazon of having exploited a "broken voting system". The union had campaigned for safer working conditions and fair wages.

The almost 6,000 employees of the logistics warehouse in Bessemer had almost two months to vote on the employee representatives - due to the pandemic - postal vote. The vote attracted great interest across the country, and during the election campaign the union received support from top politicians, including President Joe Biden and a number of other celebrities.

It was of little use. However, the RWDSU should not simply accept a defeat. The union has already accused Amazon of "illegally" influencing the vote and has announced strong opposition.

Complaints about workload

Observers believe that protracted legal consequences are possible. Before the election, Amazon had tried with all its might to delay the vote, but failed with an objection to the NLRB labor protection authority. The Bezos Group was of the opinion from the start that no union was necessary, as the employees would already get everything they could stand up for.

Amazon boasts one of the highest wages in the industry, comprehensive fringe benefits from day one on the job, career opportunities and a safe and modern work environment. But especially in the logistics centers, employees repeatedly complain about the high and strenuous workload and alleged surveillance.

Working conditions at Amazon are also a hot topic in Germany. Strikes have been ongoing since 2013 - without any tangible results in the deadlocked conflict. Most recently, the Verdi service union called on employees at six locations to go on strike for four days before Easter.

Amazon admits "own goal"

Amazon is not only in trouble in the US, where the company is the second largest private employer after Walmart. Even if Amazon was initially able to assert itself against the RWDSU, the election campaign was in many ways embarrassing for the group. For example, after a heated Twitter dispute with a US MP, he had to admit that delivery drivers sometimes couldn't find any toilets, thus confirming for the first time reports that employees urinate in bottles under high time pressure and stress at work. The fact that this was initially denied via an official Twitter account was an "own goal", admitted Amazon.