Motherboard reporters win Sidney award for Amazon union coverage
Lauren Kaori Gurley and Edward Ongweso Jr. of Vice’s Motherboard win the March Sidney Award for their coverage of the historic Amazon union election in Bessemer, Alabama.
Workers at the massive Birmingham-area Amazon facility reached out to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Thus began the second, and by far the largest union election in Amazon’s 25-year history. The workers were frustrated about working conditions, including workplace surveillance. Over 2000 of the facility’s 6000 workers signed cards supporting a union election. NLRB union ballots were mailed on February 8 and must be returned by March 29.
Gurley and Ongweso exposed Amazon’s glossy but misleading mailer full of “Vote No” instructions and the mysterious mailbox the company installed for workers to deposit their ballots. They revealed that Amazon launched an anti-union website full of misinformation. They clarified reports that Amazon was paying workers to quit before the election. They covered the political ramifications of the union struggle including President Joe Biden’s historic statement of support for the organizing workers and unions in general.
The winners’ work on the tech and labor beat brings deep context to their union election reporting by keeping tabs on Amazon’s history of workplace surveillance in the U.S and abroad, the company’s response to COVID, its treatment of pregnant workers in OK, its attempts to co-opt the Fight for Fifteen, and its decision to let customers donate a fraction of their purchases to a chapter of an armed insurrectionist group called the Oath Keepers.
“Gurley and Ongweso Jr. got on the Amazon beat early and provided essential coverage of this pivotal struggle,” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein.
Lauren Kaori Gurley is a senior staff writer at Motherboard, Vice’s tech website, where she covers labor and tech. Her work has also been published in The New Republic, the New York Review of Books, In These Times, and The American Prospect.
Edward Ongweso Jr. is a staff writer at Motherboard, where he reports on technology and labor. He’s also the co-host of “This Machine Kills,” a podcast exploring the political economy of technology.