Bates’ termination came as the mother of three – and grandmother to seven – struggled through a workers’ compensation nightmare due to crippling injuries received while working at Amazon. The RWDSU, who backed the Bessemer organizing effort, reports that Bates was fired over a paperwork problem, which Amazon HR has not allowed her to clear up. She learned she was fired when the company revoked her access to its employee app.
The BAmazon organizing drive was the first campaign to organize an entire Amazon warehouse in the company’s decades-long history. The company had to re-run a union election because of egregious, unlawful union busting. The outcome of the second vote, held in March 2022, is still contested.
Explaining her situation, Jennifer Bates said, “I went to work for Amazon because I believed in the future world of work, but at Amazon there is no future for workers like me. I have tirelessly worked for Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama, since it opened. Everything hurts and it’s permanently changed my life forever, but I stayed because I believe Amazon can be better, and I believe with a union we can build a brighter future for workers across the company. I’ve given my back to Amazon these past three years. I’ve given my arms and shoulders to Amazon these past three years. And I’ve given every fibre of my soul into organizing Amazon these past three years. For them to treat me like this is unfathomable. But let me be clear, Amazon, your termination of my employment will not stifle workers organizing, for when you fire leaders, it only brings more people ignited into the movement. We are a movement, we will not be stopped, and I know my union, recognized or not by you, has my back. We will fight this, I will not be silenced, we will not be stopped.”
That resolve to make Amazon respect workers’ rights is shared by the RWDSU and the global movement. Stuart Appelbaum, President of RWDSU and President of UNI Global Union’s Commerce Sector, issued the following statement Bates’ termination:
“What is clear today is that Amazon terminated one of the most public pro-union worker leaders we’ve seen in a generation over an alleged paperwork issue, for which there is ample documentation. This is an issue, which can and should be easily resolved by a human; instead, Jennifer Bates is being subjected to termination by AI due to a glitch in the company’s own software.
“Outrageously, Jennifer’s is just one example of horror stories burdening thousands of Amazon workers every day. Workers suffer from life-altering injuries through their work at Amazon, including repetitive motion injuries and 911 emergencies, which send workers to the hospital regularly, some never to return again. Continually nameless faceless HR is either nowhere to be found or excessively difficult to track down.
“We will continue to hold Amazon accountable and ensure workers’ voices are heard. Amazon’s behaviour must not go unchallenged, and workers in Bessemer, Alabama must have their rights protected under the law. No company, not even with the bottomless pockets of Amazon, is allowed to act above the law.”
In the lead up to the previous elections in Amazon’s Bessemer warehouse, unions from around the world rallied in solidarity with the Alabama workers. Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union – who coordinates Amazon Global Union Alliance – promised continued support.
“Amazon’s unjust firing of Jennifer Bates is not just a despicable act of robbing a union leader of her livelihood. It is a call to action for union activists around the world to demand justice for Jennifer. Her fight is our fight,” said Hoffman.