Killer Mike gave a great speech at the union vote rally in Bessemer, AL yesterday. Here’s the video. Lasts about 8 1/2 min. 1.2K people tuned in live, which is pretty good considering it was a Friday afternoon event at 3pm.
Bernie Sanders spoke after Killer Mike and here’s a report of his brief remarks:
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a former presidential candidate, spoke Friday afternoon at a rally in Birmingham to support Alabama workers seeking a union at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer.
“If you succeed here, it will spread all over this country,” Sanders said from a stage set up in a Southside parking lot behind the office of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in Birmingham.
“They know that it is not only workers here who are sick and tired of outrageous working conditions,” Sanders said. “A union is not going to solve it all, but what it does do is allow you a seat at the table.”
Votes will be counted Tuesday in the election, which will decide whether workers will be represented by the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union.
“When you go against one of the largest corporations in the world and you do it alone, you’ll have no power,” Sanders said. “But when you stand together in solidarity with each other, you can negotiate for a better work day.”
Sanders noted that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, worth $180 billion, is the richest man in the world, yet Amazon distribution center employees work in overheated conditions and are punished for taking more than two brief bathroom breaks on a 10-hour shift and barely have enough time to eat lunch.
“Enough really is enough,” Sanders said. “How much money do the richest people in this country require? How much in profits do the largest corporations really need?”
The union vote will send a message, he said.
“So, what this is about today is to say to this large, powerful profitable corporation, ‘Treat your workers with respect and with dignity.’ We’re not dealing with a mom and pop operation here. We’re dealing with a trillion-dollar corporation, that makes huge profits, that can certainly provide the kind of wages and benefits that working people desperately need.”
Two workers at the Amazon center in Bessemer also spoke at the rally.
“It’s just time to fight,” said Darryl Richardson, who initiated the unionization effort. “It’s time for us to stand together and fight.”
Richardson said that when he was a new employee waiting to be assigned to a station, he was written up for not being at his station. “If you leave your station you have to clock out,” he said. “I got a write-up for waiting for them to assign me to a station. That’s one of the reasons I thought we needed a union.”
He only gets two breaks a day on a 10-hour shift, and it’s nearly impossible to get to the bathroom and back to the station in the time allotted, he said.
Linda Burns said that after taxes are taken out, her weekly pay is $300. “With one hand, I have to pick up 1,000 pieces (shipments) in one hour,” she said. Getting to the lunch room and back on a 30-minute lunch break leaves about 10 minutes to eat, she said.
She had to get a second job and also attends nursing school on the side, she said. If she’s one minute late, she loses an hour of pay, she said. “We cannot fight Bezos by ourselves,” she said.
Sanders noted that in Europe, Amazon workers are represented by unions.
“People are afraid to stand up for their rights,” Sanders said. “They’re afraid they’re going to get fired.”
He noted that Amazon has criticized his efforts to support unionization. “It’s not Bernie Sanders they’re afraid of,” he said. “It’s the power of the workers.”
Workers are being intimidated and called in to meetings where they are told a union is not in their best interests and they are being urged to vote against it, Sanders said.
Even if the unionization effort in Alabama fails, it’s been a success, Sanders said.
“This is historically an anti-union state,” he said. “A major point has already been made.”
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