On Friday, 2,654 workers at an Amazon facility in Staten Island, N.Y., voted to become Amazon’s first union. While you may not work at Amazon, this is a victory for you, too.
Unions have historically been beneficial to workers. As of 2020, union workers are “paid 11.2% more and have greater access to health insurance and paid sick days than their nonunion counterparts,” according to the Economic Policy Institute.
According to the Bureau of Labor, only 10.3% of the U.S. workforce had a union membership in 2021. This means only 10.3% of the workforce can collectively bargain with their employers for things such as health and dental benefits, higher wages and safer workplaces. Let’s contrast the U.S. with “the happiest country in the world.” According to Forbes, Finland has a unionization rate over 55%.
Recently, Congressman Matt Gaetz went on a tirade to the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, about China being further ahead of us in terms of “hypersonic missiles” during a defense budget hearing. Perhaps he should be more impassioned by how the People’s Republic of China has a unionization rate over 20%, double ours. Competition that improves our country should obviously be prioritized over destroying another country.
The inability to collectively bargain is detrimental to workers in every regard. In case you’re curious how this pertains to you, you’re likely a worker. Every person who sells their labor to someone else for a wage or salary is a “worker.” Without collective bargaining, workers must take whatever crumbs we are given in whatever workplace.
Despite the fact that workers produce the entirety of revenues and profits in any given firm, they are minimized to “expenses.” While you may produce $100 an hour in revenues or profits, your wage is $10. No collective bargaining? Take it or leave it.
With inflation, economic uncertainty, a horrific housing market and a looming climate crisis, workers should feel emboldened to take a greater piece of the wealth and power pies which they produce.
The Staten Island unionization was truly a David and Goliath story because the workers were led by organizer Christian Smalls, who was fired from Amazon for organizing protests over pandemic safety issues in 2020. The success of Smalls and the Amazon workers of Staten Island furthered a wave of pro-worker sentiment nationwide.
Workers at Starbucks, Amazon and other firms have faced firings, harassment, scab labor and more obstacles to their victories over their bosses. But if a group of workers from Staten Island can say “no” to the colossus that is Amazon and Jeff Bezos, perhaps more of us can do the same.