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Amazon workers unite and fight: “Bezos’ obscene fortune only possible because of the work we do”

Photo: Amazon workers in Germany — Aida Mojica

Workers in more than a dozen countries organized coordinated actions against corporate giant Amazon to coincide with the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Those participating are from a diverse array of countries and lines of work up and down the supply chain, from warehouses of the United States to call centers in the Philippines. The demands are varied and serve as an indictment of the monopoly’s anti-worker operating practices.

Workers have many serious grievances with the company: low base pay, the lack of PPE and unsafe conditions they have been subjected to during the global COVID-19 pandemic, and inhumane work rules to name just a few. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is estimated to have seen his wealth grow by upwards of $48 billion during the COVID-19 crisis at the same time as millions and millions of workers are newly unemployed, facing eviction and, in the case of the United States, with the looming expiration of what little relief programs still exist.

“Amazon has made a killing during this pandemic while tens of thousands of us workers have gotten sick going into unsafe workplaces.” An Amazon employee active in organizing efforts told Liberation News, “We shouldn’t have to accept the mandatory 50 and 60 hour work weeks, increased injuries, crushing workloads, and outrageous rate requirements that Black Friday and “peak season” bring us, while Amazon can’t even give us adequate protections from a deadly global pandemic.”

Climate-focused organizations are protesting outside of Amazon’s European headquarters in Luxembourg to highlight the company’s contribution to the destruction of the environment. Community organizers protested in Arlington, Virginia where the arrival of a heavily-subsidized Amazon headquarters threatens to dislodge working class families. Today, workers in German Amazon warehouses began a follow-up work stoppage after a three-day strike last week. 

Amazon recently came under fire again for spying on activist employees, for maintaining databases tracking organizing activity, and for hiring the notorious union-busting Pinkerton agency — all of which only serves to underscore the necessity of increasing worker organization and solidarity.

Many of these worker-led actions are taking place under banners carrying the slogan, “Make Amazon Pay,” which the movement seems to have already accomplished albeit on a one-time basis. Faced with the looming “Black Friday” strike, Amazon announced that it would issue holiday bonuses of $150 for part-time employees and $300 for full-time workers. The Amazon bosses need to give up far, far more than that — but it is evidence that struggle can win concrete results. 

Amazon workers and those in solidarity will have to continue to organize, carrying the energy from high-profile days of action into the hard and necessary work of building a lasting labor movement that is ready to fight and capable of delivering the goods.

The Amazon employee reflected on the critical lessons of this ongoing fight, “Collectively, we’re learning that Amazon’s booming profits, and Jeff Bezos’s obscene fortune are only possible because of the work we do. We’re learning that by standing together and organizing as workers, we can “make Amazon pay” us what we’re worth. We’re also learning the immense power of international solidarity.”

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