Amazon Labor Battle: Wages Might Not Ward Off Union

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“From Faurecia to Amazon, it’s a big wage gap,” said Richardson, who now makes $ 15.55.

Heather Knox, an Amazon spokeswoman, said workers in Bessemer were eligible for increases every six months and that they received a $ 2 an hour bonus for much of last spring. Full-time workers received $ 300 during the holiday season and $ 500 last June. The company also offers substantial tuition reimbursements for employees taking courses in specific areas.

Some employees at the Bessemer plant, which just opened when Covid-19 came under pressure last March, consider the pay to be more than reasonable, especially younger workers.

“I think it’s fair,” said Roderick Crocton, 24, who previously made $ 11.25 as an overnight trader at a local retailer. “In my old job, I lived in my apartment with nowhere to go and paid my bills. Today I can go out and experience how I am in the city. “

However, other workers insist that Amazon wages are not particularly high in the Birmingham area, even if the pandemic has limited their employment opportunities. An Amazon employee named Clint, a union promoter who refused to give his last name for fear of retaliation, said he made about $ 40,000 a year installing satellite dishes before the pandemic left him unemployed. He said he got his finances up and running in part by living with his mother.

The retail workers union represented workers in nearby warehouses where pay ranges between $ 18 and $ 21 an hour, including an ice cream parlor and grocery store not far from Amazon.

At a plant of the NFI Group, a Canadian bus manufacturer, about an hour east of Birmingham, the hourly wage for simple employees is between 14.79 and 23.31 US dollars, according to the company.

A survey of about 100 workers at the NFI facility by Emily Erickson, a professor at Alabama A&M University, found that white workers made an average of $ 3 an hour more than black workers. A former employee, Charles Crooms, who currently works for an advocacy group in the area, said this made it difficult to convince white workers to join a union organization. (The company said that all employees with the same grade and tenure were paid the same.)