Jennifer Bates never thought that she’d be testifying before members of Congress, after one year due to the “grueling” conditions she experienced working in Amazon, when Amazon opened a sprawling warehouse in her community in March 2020.
Bates, who is a grandmother of seven children, was really excited and happy about Amazon coming to Bessemer, Alabama. She thought that it would bring economic growth to the area she lived and there was a chance that a job there would allow her to spend much more time with her family and grandchildren.
Instead, what she found at Amazon was a job with 10-hour shifts which according to her felt “more strenuous” than the 12-hour shifts she used to do at her previous job place. Her knees used to hurt and also her legs used to swell due to the amount of walking required to reach thr warehouse, which was almost as big as a football field and along with that it also had lots of stairs.
Jennifer Bates’ efforts to help organize a union at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama, catapulted her into the national spotlight.
“Working 10 hours at the pace that they push you to go, the time off is either going to the doctor for something, soaking, resting, taking it easy on your days off,” Bates, an Amazon associate, said in a CNN Business interview this month.
She considered calling it quits. Bates, on the other hand, determined that there was a better response: working to improve it. “Why couldn’t I stand still and have an opportunity to fix something that was broken?”
Because of her role in a high-profile union push inside the Bessemer facility, that decision would propel Bates into the national spotlight.
Workers and organizers who were behind the effort were fighting to form Amazon’s first US-based union in the company’s 27-year history. They also ruffled the feathers of one of America’s largest employers, who displayed their aggressive anti-union tactics in full force.