Bernie Sanders Speaks at Pro-Union Rally for Amazon Workers in Alabama
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont spoke Friday afternoon at a rally in Birmingham to support Alabama workers seeking a union at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer.
Sen. Bernie Sanders -- sans mittens -- visited Amazon workers at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, on Friday and said their "historic" effort to unionize will spark pro-labor movements across America, CBS reported.
"You've got to stand up and you've got to fight for it," said Sanders, who was accompanied by Michael "Killer Mike" Render and Danny Glover, both artists and activists. "There is no excuse for workers at Amazon not to have good wages, good benefits, and good working conditions."
The nearly 6,000 employees at the Amazon warehouse outside of Birmingham are in the process of voting to form a union with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents more than 15 million workers.
Amazon worker Darryl Richardson, who launched the Alabama unionization effort, also addressed the rally. "It's just time to fight," he said, according to Al.com. "It's time for us to stand together and fight."
Linda Burns, another employee at the so-called fulfillment center in Bessemer, said that after tax deductions, her weekly pay is a paltry $300. Burns told the rally about how tough her job can be: "With one hand, I have to pick up 1,000 pieces in one hour."
Rapper Killer Mike, who campaigned with Sanders in 2020, likened employees' working conditions to "slave labor."
"I want their vote to go through but if it doesn't, I won't be ordering from Amazon again," Killer Mike said.
Sanders, who has long supported union efforts and criticized corporate power, called the workers "courageous" for highlighting unfair treatments at one the largest corporations in the world.
"What we know is if we are interested in expanding a middle-class which has been shrinking for decades, the only way to do it is to grow the union movement and you are in the forefront of that struggle," the democratic socialist and two-time Democratic presidential candidate said. "So I say to you... what you're doing is historical! Because all over this country people are sick and tired of being exploited, sick and tired of not having the dignity they deserve."
Amazon unionization has taken on greater urgency for many of the company's workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Bezos' fortune has soared by over $75 billion while the company's lowest-paid employees risk their lives for a vaunted — but, many say, inadequate — $15-per-hour wage.
"Enough really is enough," said Sanders at Friday's rally. "How much money do the richest people in this country require? How much in profits do the largest corporations really need?"
Earlier this month, Sanders invited Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to testify before the Senate Budget Committee at a hearing on income inequality. Bezos declined the invitation, but the committee heard from Jennifer Bates, an Amazon warehouse worker who supports unionizing.
In recent weeks, other members of Congress have also voiced their support for the unionization effort. Earlier this month, President Joe Biden said that Amazon management should not be influencing the workers' vote.
"Workers in Alabama and all across America are voting whether to organize a union in their workplace. This is vitally important," Biden said. "The choice to join a union is up to the workers — full stop," he added.
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