“It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true,” the company said in a statement. “Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers and media outlets than they heard from us.”

Still, workers at the facility were sharply divided and remained so after the result.

”I think it’s a mistake,” said one yes voter, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “But you can’t tell these kids around here anything, $15 an hour is the most they have ever made.”

He attributed the loss in part to Amazon’s effort to sway voters. “All of their info came from Amazon’s ‘vote no’ campaign,” the worker said of colleagues at the facility. “They fed them misinformation.”

Roderick Crocton, who has been working at the facility for a year, said he wasn’t surprised his colleagues rejected the union. The 24-year-old said the pay and benefits were much better than at his previous job at Walmart Inc., where he earned less than $12 an hour and didn’t have health insurance after two years.

“It’s really not bad at Amazon,” Crocton said. “Everybody is just ready for it to be over. It’s just annoying to keep hearing about it and see the signs. We’re ready to get back to going in there and getting the packages out.”

The Bessemer fulfillment center opened about a year ago, the first such Amazon facility in Alabama and one of hundreds the company has opened around the U.S. to facilitate speedy shipping. The facility was a big deal for a once-thriving steel town that began shedding manufacturing jobs in the 1970s and 1980s. For many Bessemer residents, Amazon’s arrival was affirmation that their town had finally entered the 21st century. Yes, the jobs were arduous, but many residents focused on the $15-an-hour starting wage and health benefits.

Amazon, instantly Bessemer’s largest employer, had no trouble filling the jobs. Still, some workers found the work pace arduous or fretted about catching Covid-19, which had started spreading around the U.S. and infected dozens of Amazon workers elsewhere.

It’s unusual for labor activism to emerge so quickly at an Amazon warehouse because turnover is high and it typically takes time for workers’ initial enthusiasm to curdle into disenchantment. RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum has said the mostly African-American workforce at the Bessemer facility was partly inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests and the growing acceptance that systemic racism has hurt the economic prospects of people of color.

Whatever happens next, the election in Bessemer will be long remembered as a landmark event in Jeff Bezos’s long battle with American unions.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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