In the winter of 2021, Matt Littrell was a 22-year-old worker at an Amazon warehouse in Campbellsville, Kentucky. Then, the workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, began a unionization drive, citing below-market pay and grueling production quotas.

In April, the workers in Alabama voted against forming a union with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and then also lost in a revote in March 2022 after the National Labor Relations Board found Amazon had improperly interfered in the first election.

Despite those losses, Littrell was inspired to take action in Campbellsville. He is now leading an effort to get his union to become the second workplace to unionize with the independent Amazon Labor Union following the historic union election.

“Amazon just doesn’t treat people right,” Littrell says.

Littrell’s story is representative of the stories of many workers of his age who are flocking to unionize at chains like Apple, REI, and Starbucks, which has seen more than 300 of its stores file to unionize since December 2021. According to the NLRB, union elections across all industries have increased by more than 56% since then.

These massive organizing efforts follow an unprecedented wave of strikes that saw workers walk off the job in more than 2,000 workplaces since March 2020, according to Payday Report’s Strike Tracker.

“There is a sense of momentum here,” Littrell says. “People really want change.”

Littrell’s journey is a tale of a moment that has seen unprecedented organizing, and of a struggle to overcome barriers to unionization both in labor law and that big businesses set up to thwart workers.

At first, Littrell liked working at Amazon, but right away, he began to notice problems at the plant. He tried to get involved in a plant-wide safety committee but noticed that management wasn’t responsive to its feedback.

“I would still see people getting injured over some of these things. I would still see people getting written up for getting injured when it really wasn’t their fault,” Littrell says.

The failed Bessemer unionization drive opened his eyes to more possibilities.

“I was just a working-class guy before that — just working to pay bills,” Littrell says. “It was my own personal looking into what they were doing down there in Alabama and I saw that, hey, there’s some real potential here to actually force management to do some things.”

Read the full article about unionizing by Mike Elk at YES! Magazine.