A group of U.S. lawmakers visited an Amazon facility in Alabama on Friday to lend support to a growing push to unionize its workers, in what labor leaders and lawmakers called one of the most important union elections in United States history.
Workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, are voting on whether to become the first employees in the U.S. to join a union at one of the country’s largest employers.
The visit comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s recent statement defending workers’ rights to form unions. While he did not mention Amazon, he referenced “workers in Alabama.”
The move by the Alabama workers, which is being backed by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), is a critical one for the U.S. labor movement that has struggled with declining membership in recent years. It is also a watershed moment for a growing unionizing drive within the tech industry that has long been hostile to organized labor.
The congressional delegation includes U.S. Representatives Andy Levin, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Terri Sewell, and Nikema Williams.
“This is the most important election for the working class of this country in the 21st century,” Rep. Levin said, addressing workers in Bessemer. “This is the biggest election in the south in a generation.”
Rep. Sewell, whose district includes Bessemer, likened the fight to the civil rights struggles in the area’s past.
“I know that Amazon workers stand in the same tradition as John Lewis…as those foot soldiers that dare to change the world by having the audacity to stand up for their rights.”
The lawmakers also privately met with workers and organizers from the facility.
“We just want what’s owed to us,” said Kevin Jackson, an Amazon worker at the Bessemer warehouse who attended the meetings. “We want a seat at the table.”
Michael Foster, a lead RWDSU organizer, said workers at the facility reached out to the union for help, not the other way around. “We know we have people walking on egg shells because they have no sense of job security,” he said.