Amazon’s victory in the Alabama unionization vote will be a relief to the e-commerce giant in the short term, but it’s hardly the end of the matter. Leaving aside the legal appeals over the outcome of the Alabama vote, the labor movement is sure to try again elsewhere. Widespread reports of onerous working conditions for Amazon drivers and warehouse workers are too egregious for union officials to ignore.
Let’s assume the union wins some rounds. That will doubtless crimp Amazon’s style in the short run, potentially raising costs and making it harder for Amazon to hire and fire as easily as it does now. In the long run, though, it may well be moot. For nearly a decade, Amazon has been deploying robots in its warehouses, while investing in research to advance what automation can do, as this video from 2019 outlines. Over time, that could drastically reduce demand for human employees in the warehouses. You can even imagine Amazon’s warehouses eventually becoming more like its data centers, bristling with technology and only a handful of highly-skilled technicians to keep the machines running.