Amazon’s Tricks

A major battle recently played out in Bessemer, Alabama at an Amazon fulfillment center that covers over 19 acres. Thousands of warehouse employees, mostly African American, sought to improve their working conditions by launching a unionization fight. Amazon has a long history of abusing its workers for the profits of their leadership and unions have a long history of lifting up workers and their families.

Standing in their way was Amazon’s $1 trillion dollars, and their founder, the wealthiest person in the world, Jeff Bezos. 

It was not a fair fight. Amazon chose to manipulate our nation’s weakened labor laws, leveraging its vast resources to throw everything it could at its own workers to discourage a union. Here’s a breakdown of just some of the tactics they used:

Paying anti-union consultants nearly $10k per day who have led previous attacks against nurses and factory workers attempting to unionize.

Obsessively monitoring organized labor, social and environmental movements from its Global Security Operations Center. Amazon even hired Pinkerton operatives, the infamous group with a long history of union-busting, to gather data on warehouse workers’ activities.

Diluting the union vote by pushing to enlarge the bargaining unit. Just months before the election, Amazon pushed for all 5,800 warehouse workers to be part of the bargaining unit that would vote on the union. The original unit was only 1,500 workers. Amazon’s move added thousands of workers who union organizers had never spoken to or organized—but who were forced to attend Amazon’s anti-union meetings.

Barring union organizers from coming into the warehouse to talk to workers and forbidding workers from promoting the union during work hours.

Offering employees $1,000 to quit right before the vote in Bessemer, which could separate disgruntled staff from the union effort.

Using contract workers as anti-union agents. The contractors, who were not eligible to vote in the union drive, were asked to wear “Vote No” pins during their warehouse shifts.

Texting anti-union messages repeatedly to workers, for example; “We are a winning team, and we believe working together directly is most effective. Don’t let outsiders divide our winning team! We don’t believe that you need to pay someone to speak for you.”

Pressuring the city to alter the traffic light outside the factory, increasing the green light duration to clear workers more quickly and away from union organizers who were handing out literature.

Posting anti-union flyers in the warehouse’s bathroom stalls.

Publishing a coercive anti-union website called, which threatened union members with age-old lies about what it meant to be a member of a union. 

Compelling workers to attend “captive audience” meetings as part of their job, sometimes multiple times per week, where managers allegedly threatened to slash benefits and even shut down the warehouse if the union won

Openly defying the National Labor Relations Board by pressuring the Postal Service to install a ballot mailbox at the warehouse, which organizers believe led some workers to (incorrectly) think that Amazon had a role in overseeing the election.

And those are just the tactics we know of. Even though the list reads like an arsenal of deception and power-plays, most, if not all, of these actions are considered legal under the current National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), a federal law launched in 1935 to protect workers’ rights to organize for better wages and working conditions that has been weakened over decades without any modernization. 

But the fight isn’t over. Amazon’s anti-union campaign clashes with Americans’ positive opinion of labor unions. Almost 70% of Americans supported the union drive in Bessemer. 64% of Americans approve of labor unions in general, the highest in 50 years. The highly-publicized campaign in Alabama showed us all in detail what workers are asked to endure, why they wanted to unionize, and how difficult it is to go up against a corporate giant like Amazon. 

That positive public opinion plus a marked growth in unionization in many states could help pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which is awaiting Senate approval. The updates to the NLRA it provides would even the playing field, handing a slingshot to Bessemer warehouse workers, and all other workplaces they’ve inspired to organize, as they take on their next Goliath.