What happens inside a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, could have major implications not just for the country’s second-largest employer but the labour movement at large.
Organizers are pushing for some 6,000 Amazon workers there to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union on the promise it will lead to better working conditions, better pay and more respect. Amazon is pushing back, arguing that it already offers more than twice the minimum wage in Alabama and workers get such benefits as health care, vision and dental insurance without paying union dues.
The two sides are fully aware that it’s not just the Bessemer warehouse on the line. Organizers hope what happens there will inspire thousands of workers nationwide — and not just at Amazon — to consider unionizing and revive a labour movement that has been waning for decades.
“This is lighting a fuse, which I believe is going to spark an explosion of union organizing across the country, regardless of the results,” says RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum.
The union push could spread to other parts of Amazon and threaten the company’s profits, which soared 84% last year to $21 billion. At a time when many companies were cutting jobs, Amazon was one of the few still hiring, bringing on board 500,000 people last year alone to keep up with a surge of online orders.
Bessemer workers finished casting their votes on Monday. The counting begins on Tuesday, which could take days or longer depending on how many votes are received and how much time it takes for each side to review. The process is being overseen by the National Labor Relations Board and a majority of the votes will decide the final outcome.
What that outcome will be is anyone’s guess. Appelbaum thinks workers who voted early likely rejected the union because Amazon’s messaging got to them first. He says momentum changed in March as organizers talked to more workers and heard from basketball players and high-profile elected officials, including President Joe Biden.
For Amazon, which employs more than 950,000 full- and part-time workers in the U.S. and nearly 1.3 million worldwide, a union could lead to higher wages that would eat into its profits. Higher wages would also mean higher costs to get packages to shoppers’ doorsteps, which may prompt Amazon to raise prices, says Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
In a statement, Amazon says it encouraged all its employees to vote and that “their voices will be heard in the days ahead.”
Any push to unionize is considered a long shot, since labour laws tend to favour employers. Alabama itself is a “right-to-work” state, which allows workers in unionized shops to opt out of paying union dues even as they retain the benefits and job protection negotiated by the union.
Kent Wong, the director of the UCLA Labor Center, says companies in the past have closed stores, warehouses or plants after workers have voted to unionize.
“There’s a history of companies going to great lengths to avoid recognizing the union,” he says.
Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer and biggest private employer, has successfully fought off organizing efforts over the years. In 2000, it got rid of butchers in 180 of its stores after they voted to form a union. Walmart said it cut the jobs because people preferred pre-packaged meat. Five years later, it closed a store in Canada where some 200 workers were close to winning a union contract. At the time, Walmart said demands from union negotiators made it impossible for the store to sustain itself.
The only other time Amazon came up against a union vote was in 2014, when the majority of the 30 workers at a Delaware warehouse turned it down.
This time around, Amazon has been hanging anti-union signs throughout the Bessemer warehouse, including inside bathroom stalls, and holding mandatory meetings to convince workers why the union is a bad idea, according to one worker who recently testified at a Senate hearing. It has also created a website for employees that tells them they’ll have to pay $500 in union dues a month, taking away money that could go to dinners and school supplies.
Amazon’s hardball tactics extend beyond squashing union efforts. Last year, it fired a worker who organized a walkout at a New York warehouse to demand greater protection against coronavirus, saying the employee himself flouted distancing rules. When Seattle, the home of its headquarters, passed a new tax on big companies in 2018, Amazon protested by stopping construction of a new high-rise building in the city; the tax was repealed four weeks later. And in 2019, Amazon ditched plans to build a $2.5 billion headquarters for 25,000 workers in New York after pushback from progressive politicians and unions.
Beyond Amazon is an anti-union culture that dominates the South. And unions have lost ground nationally for decades since their peak in the decades following World War II. In 1970, almost a third of the U.S. workforce belonged to a union. In 2020, that figure was 10.8%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Private sector workers now account for less than half of the 14.3 million union members across the country.
Advocates say a victory would signal a shift in the narrative about unions, helping refute the typical arguments from companies, including Amazon, that workers can win adequate compensation and conditions by dealing with management directly.
“It is because of unions that we have a five-day work week. It is because of unions that we have safer conditions in our places of work. It is because of unions that we have benefits,” says Rep. Terri Sewell, whose congressional district includes the Amazon facility. “Workers should have the right to choose whether they organize or not.”
Union leaders are circumspect about specific organizing plans after the Bessemer vote, and Appelbaum says he doesn’t want to tip off Amazon to any future efforts. But there is broad consensus that a win would spur workers at some of the 230 other Amazon warehouses to mount a similar union campaign.
It’s less clear whether any ripple effects would reach other prime targets like Walmart and the expansive auto industry that has burgeoned across the South in recent decades. Both have largely succeeded at keeping unions at bay.
The auto workers union has had some of the largest union pushes of the last decade, but their most intense and publicized efforts ended in failure. In 2017, a years-long campaign to unionize a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, ended with a decisive 2,244-1,307 rejection of the union — the kind of margin that would be devastating in Bessemer. Two years later, however, Volkswagen workers in Tennessee had a much more evenly split vote, with 776 workers supporting unionization and 833 voting against it.
Besides the number of Amazon workers involved, the Alabama campaign has stood out because of how explicitly many advocates have linked the effort to the civil rights movement of the 20th century. The RWDSU estimates that more than 80% of the warehouse workers in Bessemer are Black.
Robert Korstad, a Duke Emeritus professor and labour history expert, says those dynamics could help in Bessemer.
“The history of the Black struggle in Alabama is pretty deeply entrenched in the social, political and religious institutions there,” he says. “We’re starting to see people rise up again. So this Amazon struggle is part of a larger struggle that’s gone on a long time.”
The question, Korstad says, is whether a win in Bessemer truly becomes a “ripple effect” that inspires workers across racial and ethnic lines elsewhere.
Voluntary recall issued for Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Ranch Seasoning – Global News
A voluntary recall has been issued for Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Ranch Seasoning over a possible Salmonella contamination.
McCormick & Company, Inc. says the recall covers 153g bottles with a best before date of September 6, 2022.
The bottles were shipped to British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.
No illnesses have been reported, and McCormick says the potential risk was brought to their attention by the FDA during routine testing.
Salmonella poisoning can result in a wide range of symptoms, from short-term fever, headache and nausea to more serious issues including severe arthritis and, in rare cases, even death.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Pfizer sells $7.8 billion in Covid shots in the second quarter, raises 2021 guidance on vaccine sales – CNBC
Pfizer said Wednesday it sold $7.8 billion in Covid-19 shots in the second quarter and raised its 2021 sales forecast for the vaccine to $33.5 billion from $26 billion, as the delta variant spreads and scientists debate whether people will need booster shots.
The company’s second-quarter financial results also beat Wall Street expectations on earnings and revenue. Here’s how Pfizer did compared with what Wall Street expected, according to average estimates compiled by Refinitiv:
- Adjusted earnings per share: $1.07 per share vs. 97 cents per share expected
- Revenue: $18.98 billion vs. $18.74 billion forecast
Pfizer expects an adjusted pretax profit in the high 20% range of revenue for the vaccine.
The company now expects full-year earnings in the range of $3.95 to $4.05 per share. That’s up from its prior range of $3.55 to $3.65 per share. It expects revenue in the range of $78 billion to $80 billion, up from its previous estimate of $70.5 billion to $72.5 billion.
Shares of Pfizer dipped 0.4% in premarket trading.
“The second quarter was remarkable in a number of ways,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. “Most visibly, the speed and efficiency of our efforts with BioNTech to help vaccinate the world against COVID-19 have been unprecedented, with now more than a billion doses of BNT162b2 having been delivered globally.”
Pfizer’s other business units also saw strong sales growth. Revenue from its oncology unit rose by 19% year over year to $3.1 billion. The company’s hospital unit generated $2.2 billion in revenue, up 21% from the prior year. Its internal medicine unit grew by 5% from a year ago to $2.4 billion.
Pfizer said earlier this month it was seeing signs of waning immunity induced by its Covid vaccine with German drugmaker BioNTech, and planned to ask the Food and Drug Administration to authorize a booster dose. It also said it is developing a booster shot to target the delta variant.
In slides posted Wednesday alongside its earnings report, Pfizer said it could potentially file for an emergency use authorization for a booster dose with the FDA as early as August. It expects to begin clinical studies testing its delta variant vaccine in the same month.
It expects full approval for its two-dose vaccine by January 2022.
Pearson airport won’t sort arriving passengers based on COVID-19 vaccination status – CityNews Toronto
Canada’s largest airport is no longer splitting arriving international passengers into different customs lines based on their vaccination status.
Toronto’s Pearson International Airport announced last week it may be sorting travellers arriving from the U.S. or other international locations into vaccinated and partially or non-vaccinated queues.
But a spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority says the practice has been discontinued as of Monday.
Beverly MacDonald says in a statement that the airport has determined separating vaccinated and partially or non-vaccinated travellers into different customs lines “results in minimal operational efficiencies.”
She says entry requirements related to vaccination status will now be enforced once a passenger reaches a customs officer.
Fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents are now able to forgo a 14-day quarantine when arriving in Canada from abroad.
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