Last week, Jennifer Bates, the lead worker spokeswoman of the Bessemer, Alabama Amazon union drive, received notice she had been reinstated after filing an Unfair Labour Practice charge against the company. In early June, she had received notice she had been terminated after enduring a several months-long workers’ compensation nightmare.
“Jennifer Bates has been an inspiring figure in the fight for workers’ rights at Amazon. Her reinstatement is a significant victory not only for her but for all workers who believe in the power of collective action. Jennifer’s courage and determination have galvanized a global movement, highlighting the urgent need for better working conditions and the right to organize. We stand with Jennifer and commend her for her unwavering dedication,“ said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union.
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.
Jennifer Bates issued the following immediate response to the news: “Amazon was wrong, they tried to fire me and stifle a movement, but the movement pushed back, and I’m incredibly humbled by the global outpouring of support for my unjust termination. If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that today Amazon workers everywhere now know that when you’re under attack, you have to stand up and fight back because when we fight, clearly, we win!”
The BAmazon organizing drive was the first campaign to organize an entire U.S. Amazon warehouse in the company’s decades-long history. The company had to re-run a union election because of egregious, unlawful union busting.
“Amazon tried to stifle one of the most outspoken leaders of the contemporary labour movement. Today, Amazon had to admit it was wrong – because the world stood up and said no. Jennifer made it clear that despite the company’s extraordinary power and resources, she would not be silenced – nor will we,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
The excitement generated by the Bessemer workers campaign to join RWDSU prompted support and solidarity from athletes, movie stars, musicians, and even U.S. President Joe Biden. Unions across the United States—and across the world—also reported an uptick in worker interest in organizing. The Freedom from Fear Awards are presented each year to individuals and organizations that have demonstrated commitment to union organizing and the promotion of workers’ rights and a world “free from fear.”