Retaliation: Amazon fires Alabama union organizer Jennifer Bates
Fired Amazon worker and union organizer Jennifer Bates: 'Amazon, your termination of my employment will not stifle workers organizing, for when you fire leaders, it only brings more people ignited into the movement. We are a movement, we will not be stopped and I know my union, recognized or not by you, has my back.' | via RWDSU

BESSEMER, Ala. (PAI)—Showing again it hates unions and will do anything—legal or not—to intimidate its employees, Amazon unilaterally fired Jennifer Bates, the lead spokeswoman for workers who campaigned to unionize its giant Bessemer, Ala., warehouse.

That’s even though Bates has been battling crippling injuries she received on the job at Amazon, and has been out for several months on workers comp, says the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), whose organizers are helping the workers’ grassroots group, Bamazon, trying to unionize the plant.

“I’ve given my back to Amazon these past three years. I’ve given my arms and shoulders to Amazon these past three years. And I’ve given every fiber of my soul into organizing Amazon these past three years. For them to treat me like this is unfathomable,” Bates told RWDSU.

Bates returned to work, with doctors’ recommendations about changing her assignment and schedule. Amazon demanded she get a second medical opinion. When she returned again, Amazon fired her a few days later by disabling her device which tells bosses when she’s “off the clock.” Bates is appealing the firing.

Bamazon and RWDSU have faced off against Amazon, owned by one of the world’s richest people, Jeff Bezos, in two National Labor Relations Board-run union recognition elections. The first, in 2021, drew national attention when Democratic President Joe Biden and other political and entertainment notables endorsed it.

But flagrant Amazon labor law-breaking was so skewed that balloting that RWDSU lost by a large margin. The law-breaking, formally called “unfair labor practices,” was so rampant the labor board ordered a rerun in 2022, with some of the most-flagrant violations banned. A large coalition of activists from other unions went to Alabama to help in the second election campaign.

That vote has yet to be decided. RWDSU trailed slightly, but the number of challenged ballots exceeded Amazon’s margin over RWDSU, and Bamazon and the board’s officials responsible for deciding those are still working through all the charges of electoral violations.

Bates became a top spokeswoman for the union in both elections, including testifying before Congress about Amazon’s labor law-breaking. To intimidate other workers, companies often fire workers who get out front, as Bates did. That’s what Amazon did to Bates on June 2.

At a meeting at the United Nations Geneva headquarters today, labor allies from all around the world stood in solidarity with Jennifer Bates and Bamazon. | via RWDSU

In another piece of evidence of how Amazon exploits its workers—besides the overheated Bessemer warehouse, the size of four football fields—and the tracking, Bates just hit her three-year anniversary at Bessemer. That puts her at the top of its pay scale for rank-and-file workers, which shows how flat the pay scale is, even in low-wage Alabama.

“I went to work for Amazon because I believed in the future world of work, but at Amazon, there is no future for workers like me,” said Bates who, like most Bessemer workers, is Black. “I tirelessly worked for Amazon in Bessemer since it opened. Everything hurts and it’s permanently changed my life forever, but I stayed because I believe Amazon can be better, and I believe with a union we can build a brighter future for workers across the company,” Bates added in her statement to RWDSU.

“Amazon, your termination of my employment will not stifle workers organizing, for when you fire leaders, it only brings more people into the movement… I know my union, recognized or not by you, has my back. We will fight this, I will not be silenced, we will not be stopped,” Bates vowed.

“Amazon terminated one of the most public pro-union worker leaders we’ve seen in a generation over an alleged paperwork issue, for which there is ample documentation,” RWDSU President Stuart Applebaum said in a statement. “This…can and should be easily resolved by a human. Instead, Jennifer Bates is being subjected to termination by AI (artificial intelligence) due to a glitch in the company’s own software.

“Outrageously, Bates is just one example of horror stories burdening thousands of Amazon workers every day. Workers suffer from life-altering injuries” by working at Amazon. They also suffer “repetitive motion injuries and 911 emergencies, which send workers to the hospital regularly, some never to return. Nameless faceless HR is nowhere to be found or excessively difficult to track down.”

Records at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as well as the National Labor Relations Board back up Appelbaum. Amazon has made the labor-backed National Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) “Dirty Dozen” list of unsafe places to work four times in the last six years. And the NLRB has issued dozens of labor law-breaking citations against it. “This company will stop at nothing to stifle workers,” Appelbaum said.


Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.