Chicago, IL / USA - September 10, 2018: People join a hotel workers' protest around Labor Day, carrying "Workers Unite" signs.

What can you do to support workers who want to unionize?

On April 9, Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama voted not to unionize. Almost 5,900 employees work at the facility. The final vote count came in at 738 votes for the union, 1,798 votes against.

So, why did so many employees refrain from voting? Why did a unionization effort with such national energy behind it fail?

Amazon workers may be a bit reluctant to rock the boat right now in general. The pandemic brought attention to unfair working conditions, but it’s also left many in the U.S. jobless and even homeless. A lot of people could be feeling less inclined to push for big changes than they would be in a better economy.

In addition, Amazon used aggressive tactics to defeat the unionization effort, including stalking workers (even to the bathroom), deploying an army of "ambassador" accounts that circulate negative talking points about unions on social media, and trolling public officials so aggressively that Amazon's IT department thought executives' accounts had been hacked.

The labor movement in the South is regrouping, with energy

As a result of Amazon’s gambits, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) has said it is filing charges of unfair labor practices. Unfortunately, when it comes to getting Amazon to change its tactics, the main body that could do something about it, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), doesn’t have much power.

The news isn’t all bad, though. Despite the unionization effort in Bessemer being voted down, there are some silver linings. The fact that Bessemer Amazon workers organized as extensively as they did, for instance, is historic in and of itself.

This is particularly true within a context of the anti-union culture that’s pervaded the U.S. and especially the South for decades. Over the past few years, unionization efforts by Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Nissan workers in Canton, Mississippi have drawn national attention.

NPR reported recently that during the Bessemer effort, Amazon workers and Black Lives Matter organizers forged important connections that are likely to carry forward. Several media outlets  reported that Bessemer also prompted a rush of inquiries to unions from workers wanting to know how to organize. 

A recent wave of successful unionization efforts in media and tech contribute to the larger story as well. The Alphabet Workers Union, created this January, for instance, has grown to over 700 members despite an organized effort by the company to discourage its formation. 

Finally, a 2020 poll by Gallup found that over 65% of Americans support unions, the highest rate since 2003.

What you can do to support workers

One big thing you can do right now to support workers who want to unionize is to contact some U.S. Senators and tell them you support the 2021 Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO).

If it becomes law, the PRO Act would make it much harder for companies like Amazon to engage in union busting actions exactly like the ones it used in Bessemer, Alabama. Companies could no longer mandate ‘captive audience’ meetings or retaliate against union organizers, for instance. Hefty fines would be imposed for violating terms.

This bill already passed the U.S. House in early March and is currently sitting with the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The emphasis now should be on encouraging lawmakers to bring the bill to a vote. The following members of that committee have not yet expressed support for the bill. Give ‘em a call. Let them know what you think:

  • Richard Burr (North Carolina) - (202) 224-3154
  • Rand Paul (Kentucky) - (202) 224-4343
  • Susan Collins (Maine) - (202) 224-2523
  • Bill Cassidy (Louisianne) - (225) 929-7711
  • Lisa Murkowski (Arkansas) - (202) 224-6665
  • Mike Braun (Indiana) - (202) 224-4814
  • Roger Marshall (Kansas) - 202-224-4774
  • Tim Scott (South Carolina) - (803) 771- 6112
  • Mitt Romney (Utah) - (385) 264-7885
  • Tommy Tuberville (Alabama) - (202) 224-4124
  • Jerry Moran (Kansas) - (202) 224-6521

Fun fact: You don’t have to live in these senators’ states to let them know how you feel. In fact, one thing that’s always valid to say to lawmakers whether you live in their state/district or not is that if they don’t support the legislation, you’ll consider donating to their opponent in the next election. Cash knows no constituency!

Another thing you can do is contact Amazon to let them know how you feel about their union busting activities. We’ve set up this form that will let you send a quick email to the company and we’ll even make sure Amazon’s board gets a copy. Click here to write your message.

Other ways to make yourself heard

  • Tell conservative leaning, business-oriented organizations that you support employees’ right to unionize. These include:
    • The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a collective of conservative legislators and private sector executives. Reach out to CEO Lisa B. Nelson at or President Michael Bowman at 
    • The US Chamber of Commerce, a lobbyist group working to create and influence legislation that benefits business owners. Reach out to USCC at or at
  • Let President Biden know you support his strong pro-union stance and encourage him to do what he can to back union organization efforts! You can use the White House’s contact form or call the US Department of Labor’s Union division at 202-691-6378
  • Educate yourself! AFL-CIO has tons of resources to better understand how unions support working people