BESSEMMER, Ala. (CN) — It’s the last pro-union sign workers see as they turn right onto the road that leads up to the Amazon plant: an image of Georgia voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, mask on, arm flexed while her left hand rolls up her sleeves a la the World War II-era Rosie the Riveter poster.
“We can do it!” A masked Abrams is saying.
And then the worker turns right, drives past the yellow gates and up to the plant ground zero to what Congressman Andy Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, called at a press conference Friday “the most important election for the working class of this country of the 21st Century.”
Levin, a former trade union organizer and director, is one of five representatives from a congressional delegation who traveled to Bessemer, Alabama, to signal their support for the workers seeking to form a union at the Amazon plant there.
On one side is a group of workers who say they are dissatisfied with the regimented and breakneck pace the company sets in its plant and the treatment they received during the Covid-19 pandemic. There are about 5,800 people who work at the plant.
And then there is Amazon, ecommerce titan and one of the largest companies in America. Its owner, Jeff Bezos, is one of the wealthiest men in the world.
None of its plants in the United States have been unionized.
Due to the pandemic, workers are casting their yes/no vote to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, or RWDSU, by mail. The count starts March 30.
And in the midst of all of this: Stacey Abrams.
While workers have been voting, people like President Joe Biden, actor Danny Glover and Abrams, a former gubernatorial candidate, have voiced their support.
It is Abrams’ endorsement the union organizers have seized upon. The Rosie-the-Riveter Abrams sign stands at three locations, at least, on the roads around the Amazon plant, including right at its main gates. And in that way, Abrams has become an icon of sorts in the push to unionize the plant.
Abrams, after an unsuccessful run for the governor’s mansion in neighboring Georgia, began organizing and registering voters. The result was one for the history books: Georgia flipped blue. President Joe Biden narrowly won the state. Weeks later, runoff elections placed Democrats in both of Georgia’s senate seats. And Abrams was the woman behind it.
She expressed support for the union drive in Bessemer in a two-minute video posted to Twitter on Feb. 20. Abrams said when she was growing up, her parents struggled because they were not members of a union. In college, she said she worked with the AFL-CIO.
Urging the Amazon workers to accept the union because they deserved dignity and well-being, Abrams said: “Collective bargaining is democracy in action in the workplace, where representation is critical. … when voices have been silenced throughout our history, unions have also been a place to give voice to working families. And for people of color in America, unions have been our allies in progress as they evolved.”
Emails sent to the organization Abrams founded, Fair Fight Action, seeking comment about the signs in Bessemer were not returned.
Joshua Brewer, organizing director for RWDSU, said the handful of signs featuring Abrams went up soon after she issued her statement.
According to Brewer, the majority of the plant’s workers are Black and women.
The image of Abrams rolling up her sleeves makes for "an inspiring figure that's saying ‘hey, gotta take our voice to the polls, we gotta vote, we can do it and we can do it together,’” Brewer said.