Amazon plans for new Alabama warehouse after US union defeat

Amazon announced plans for a new warehouse that will bring more than 500 jobs to north Alabama in the United States just weeks after workers at another company facility in the state soundly defeated a push for unionisation.

The company said the 93,000-square-metre (1 million-square-foot) order fulfilment centre would be built near a new Mazda Toyota vehicle factory that’s being constructed west of Huntsville in Limestone County.

“Amazon employees will pick, pack, and ship bulky or larger-sized customer items such as patio furniture, outdoor equipment, or rugs,” Owen Torres, a company spokesperson, said in a statement Tuesday.

Amazon already has warehouses near Mobile and in suburban Birmingham, where employees last month voted decisively against forming a union to cut off a drive that labour activists had hoped would lead to similar efforts throughout the company.

The union push at Bessemer, located just west of Birmingham, was the biggest in the 26-year history of the online seller and only the second time that an organising move from within the company had come to a vote.

Since the start of the US coronavirus outbreak, shoppers have relied increasingly on Amazon for delivery of home staples and supplies. While brick-and-mortar stores closed, Amazon posted four consecutive record quarterly profits, attracted more than 200 million Prime loyalty subscribers, and recruited over 500,000 workers to keep up with surging consumer demand.

That has kept the world’s largest online retailer at the centre of workplace tumult.

Its warehouse in Bessemer this winter became a rallying point for organised labour, hoping staff would form Amazon’s first US union and inspire similar efforts nationwide.

Workers ultimately rejected the union bid by a more than two-to-one margin, but Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said the saga showed how the company had to do better for employees.

The company has also been facing litigation in New York over whether it put profit ahead of worker safety in the COVID-19 pandemic.

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