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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Amazon's success at stopping a union organizing drive at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, shows just how far the labor movement's effort to take on Big Tech still has to go.

Driving the news: The official National Labor Relations Board vote count announced Friday showed more than twice as many "no" votes as "yes."

The big picture: Inequality in the U.S. is real. It's harder than ever for blue-collar laborers to earn a comfortable living. But a lot of American workers still aren't persuaded that unions are the answer.

Catch up quick: Amazon has long faced criticism for assigning warehouse workers grueling shifts under trying conditions, and at the start of the pandemic, it faced charges of failing to protect workers from coronavirus transmission.

  • Amazon's $15-an-hour wage is less than workers earn in unionized manufacturing plants, but it's more than many workers at other retail giants are paid.

Labor activists saw the Alabama vote as a key chance to gain a hold in the tech giant's operations, which is now the second-largest employer in the U.S., behind Walmart.

  • Amazon, like every other Big Tech company, argues that its business works better for both management and workers without a union in the mix, and the industry remains almost entirely non-unionized.
  • Tech workforces are also typically divided between well-paid knowledge workers and ancillary roles typically taken by contractors. Amazon is unusual in tech for directly employing so many warehouse workers.

Alabama, like much of the Deep South, is notably hostile terrain for labor organizing.

  • Organizers hoped to capitalize on growing concern over the tech giants' outsized economic power, and they brought in supporters like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to cast a spotlight on the effort. They even got a shoutout on Twitter from President Biden — who didn't name Amazon specifically, but he didn't have to.

It wasn't enough. The Alabama loss won't end efforts to bring unions into tech, and organizers up against corporate power and union-hostile tactics take a long view. Right now, they have no choice.

Yes, but: The Biden administration and its labor-related appointments are pro-union to a degree D.C. hasn't seen in a long time.

  • The House has already passed the union-friendly PRO Act, though it faces major hurdles in the Senate.

What they're saying: "Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us," Amazon said in a blog post. "And Amazon didn’t win — our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union."

What's next: The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) said it would file objections before the NLRB and ask for a hearing "to determine if the results of the election should be set aside" because of unfair labor practices by Amazon.

  • Amazon "left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees," union president Stuart Appelbaum charged in a written statement.

Go deeper: Amazon's scorched-earth PR strategy

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Apr 9, 2021 - Technology

Amazon defeats union effort at Alabama plant

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In a major win for Amazon, a majority of workers involved in an organizing effort at its distribution center in Bessemer, Alabama, has voted not to unionize.

Why it matters: The vast majority of large tech companies have been composed of non-union workers, and tech companies, including Amazon, have fought hard to keep it that way. The "no" vote in Alabama could chill or delay other unionization efforts in the industry.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Apr 8, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The emerging frontiers of climate activism

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The new(ish) group Law Students for Climate Accountability just launched a pressure campaign against the heavyweight law firm Gibson Dunn over its work for oil industry clients.

Why it matters: It's just one of many examples of how climate activism has been tactically evolving in recent months and years. That includes taking aim at a wider suite of corporate targets, like PR agencies and big tech, and intensifying a years-long focus on the finance sector.

Updated 6 mins ago - World

Over 70 dead in worst bombardments between Israel and Hamas for years

Smoke and flames rise after Israeli fighter jets conducted airstrikes in Gaza on May 13, 2021. Israeli forces said on May 12 they had killed a senior Hamas commander and bombed several buildings. Gaza's health ministry has said children are among the dead. Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

At least 67 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in fighting between Israel's military and Hamas since Monday, per Reuters.

The big picture: The worst aerial exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas since 2014 continued into early Thursday. It come days after escalating violence in Jerusalem that injured hundreds of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes.