Chicagoland Amazon employees walk out ahead of Alabama union vote

By Jason Flynn, Staff Reporter

Amazon workers in Chicago, Ill. staged a walk-out on April 8 protesting “megacycle” shifts a day before a union vote loss at an Alabama Amazon facility which garnered national attention. 

“We have so many stories of our lives being disrupted by Amazon’s national change to the megacycle,” Amazonians United Chicagoland (AUC) said in a written statement.  “Mothers now struggle to care for their families, so many of us wake up feeling like zombies every day.”

Mark Balentine, a community navigator with Warehouse Workers for Justice, has worked with Amazon employees attempting to organize for better workplace conditions. 


“These ridiculous rates that they give people to hit every day in order to keep a job is just outrageous” Balentine said. “You want somebody to pick 2,500 boxes a day.”

Balentine said many of the complaints he’s heard from Amazon warehouse workers have been related to break times, injuries and wages. 

“They give them a 20 minute break, but the break room’s 40 minutes away,” Balentine said. “These warehouses are the size of Soldier Field, two Soldier Fields put together. It takes time to walk to one side of the building, and if they’re a little late, they’re getting written up.”

Balentine said many families can’t afford to make ends meet on their income from Amazon, even after working 10 hour shifts that include overtime pay.  

The two most productive facilities near Chicago, in Monee and Joliet, aren’t accessible by public transportation, Balentine said, so city residents have to add car payments to their other expenses like rent, food, and clothes which are already burdensome for anyone with kids.

The National Labor Relations Board announced on  April 9 that Amazon employees in Bessemer, Ala. lost a vote to unionize 738-1,798. 

The result was disappointing for Balentine, but he said he looks at the loss as beginning for a larger organizing drive. 


“Amazonians down in Alabama, they stepped up and said, ‘hey, look, you might retaliate against us, you’re gonna do all these different things to discourage us to do this, but we’re gonna do it anyway’,” Balentine said. 

The sentiment was reflected by AUC during their walkout. 

“Amazon thought they’d get rid of our union by shutting down DCH1,” their statement said. “All they did was piss us off even more, and help us spread from being at one location to now growing our union at multiple Chicagoland sites.” 

The Retail, Warehouse, Department Store Union (RWDSU), which Alabama Amazon workers were attempting to organize, will contest the results. 

We are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote,”  Stuart Applebaum, president of RWDSU, said in a statement.

According to Payday Report, many of the people who voted against the union in Bessemer were younger, and didn’t have much experience with organized labor. 

Balentine said it’s a typical tactic for warehouses to target younger people.

“They don’t understand the struggle, they haven’t been out there living on their own.” Balentine said. “I’ve talked to some of the young guys here. They say, ‘well I just started man and it’s good money to me’.”

Warehouses also take in people that don’t have many other alternatives besides staying at the warehouse. 

“It’s an issue [for] the 19 and the 20 year olds that have kids, that [are] out here struggling, [that are] paying child support, that [have] been to jail,” Balentine said. “In places like Amazon, they feed off of that type of subject.”

Staff reporter Jason Flynn can be reached at, by phone at 872-222-7821 or on Twitter at @dejasonflynn.

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