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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Bad news for Amazon is usually viewed as good news by its smaller retail rivals, wherever they sit in the supply chain. But that may not be true this week.

The big picture: Nearly 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama are awaiting the preliminary results of a unionization vote, which could be released at any moment by the National Labor Relations Board.

  • This is the most significant organized labor vote of the internet age. If successful, it could spark a union wildfire for everything broadly categorized as e-commerce in the U.S.
  • "Walmart obviously needs to pay the most attention, because that's where it would go next," says a venture capitalist who invests in e-commerce and on-demand services companies. "But it's just a matter of time before labor trends affecting Amazon and Walmart trickle down to everyone else."

Key point: This isn't just about take-home pay for warehouse workers, particularly given that starting wages at Amazon's distribution center in Alabama are above $15 per hour. Instead, it's more about the ability to collectively bargain working conditions.

  • And, again, a union win would represent a major trend reversal. U.S. organized labor has been losing power and influence for decades, while Amazon has risen to become one of the country's most powerful and pervasive companies.
  • Conversely, an Amazon win would further cement Big Tech dominance, which has its own trickle-down impacts.

Will the union win? Flip a coin. And even once we get a preliminary outcome, it wouldn't be surprising to see the loser challenge the results in court.

The bottom line: Amazon is the market leader, and everyone follows it. Even those seeking to disrupt it.

  • Go deeper: Alec MacGillis, who just wrote a book on Amazon, recently joined Axios Re:Cap to discuss the Alabama situation and what's at stake. Listen via Apple or Spotify.

Go deeper

Labor board: Amazon illegally fired workers who criticized its practices

An Amazon warehouse. Photo: Oli Scarff via Getty Images

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Amazon illegally fired two of its most prominent critics last year after they spoke out against the company's management of warehouse workers and impact on climate change, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The news comes as the board is set to reveal the results of a high-profile unionization vote at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama this week.

Apr 5, 2021 - Podcasts

Amazon’s historic labor vote

Results for the closely watched union vote at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, are expected this week.

It’s been a long and contentious union drive that has received intense pushback from Amazon. It's an organizing effort that could impact the future of the modern day labor movement.

  • Plus, why the coming weeks are crucial for climate change.
  • And, tracking new variants of the coronavirus.
2 hours ago - World

In photos: Students evacuated as wildfire burns historic Cape Town buildings

Firefighters try, in vain, to extinguish a fire in the Jagger Library, at the University of Cape Town, after a forest fire came down the foothills of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, on Sunday. Photo: Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images

A massive wildfire spread from the foothills of Table Mountain to the University of Cape Town Sunday, burning historic South African buildings and forcing the evacuation of 4,000 students, per Times Live.

The big picture: Visitors to the Table Mountain National Park and other nearby attractions were also evacuated and several roads including a major highway, were closed. South Africa's oldest working windmill and the university's Jagger Library, which houses SA antiquities, are among the buildings damaged.