This week, the historic unionization drive by Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Ala. will get an audience in the Capitol, as Amazon worker and union advocate Jennifer Bates testifies in front of the Senate Budget Committee. While the hearing will focus mainly on income inequality, the fight by Bates and her fellow Amazon workers for union representation in the majority-Black city of Bessemer is just as much about racial justice, basic dignity, and the right of workers to have a voice in their workplaces.

If the Bessemer workers vote to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) this month, they will become the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the country. It will also mark one of the biggest union victories in the South in decades, potentially galvanizing the labor movement and inspiring workers far beyond Alabama.

The Bessemer vote comes one year into a pandemic that has exacerbated the nation’s preexisting conditions of racism and rampant inequality. While the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will bring immediate relief for low- and middle-income Americans, most of the provisions are temporary and do not address the structural causes of the current “K-shaped” recovery that sees many white Americans experiencing an economic rebound while Black and brown communities suffer higher rates of death, unemployment, and economic insecurity.

Society still needs to dismantle and replace the underlying structures that generate these racial disparities. And while tax cuts and stimulus checks provide needed relief, what can truly change the system is worker power.

Read the full article about unionization by Andre M. Perry, Molly Kinder, Laura Stateler, and Carl Romer at Brookings.