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    Amazon Workers Win First-Ever Union

    Civil societyHuman rightsAmazon Workers Win First-Ever Union
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    Amazon Workers Win First-Ever Union

    The victory has major implications for the success of the organizing efforts in other Amazon warehouses around the United States, besides inspiring workers at other major corporations and gig workers across the world to organise themselves.

    Workers at JFK8 on Staten Island have won the first ever union at an Amazon site  in the United States. This victory follows the union’s sustained drive since 2020. Of some 8,000 workers within the JFK8 facility, 4,785 cast their votes between 25 and 30 March, with ‘yes’ votes representing a clear majority.

    This victory has major implications for the success of the organizing efforts in other Amazon warehouses around the United States, besides inspiring workers at other major corporations and gig workers across the world to organise themselves.

    Amazon, one of the largest transnational companies made over US$ 469 billion in global revenue in 2021 – over half the US’ military budget. Its former CEO, Jeff Bezos, is the second richest person in the world. At times the warehouse in Staten Island, JFK8, has been the highest-earning warehouse of any in the country. Paradoxically, the workers were not making enough money to survive.

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    A letter

    On 24 March, workers received a letter that read: “For those who may not know me, my name is Chris Smalls. I am the Interim President of the Amazon Labour Union. My roots with this company are deep. For the last 7 years, my life has been affected by Amazon, whether it was positive or negative. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to unionize.” The letter sparked memory of Smalls’ seven-year struggle that led to legal battles and the loss of his job.

    Some workers described working at the warehouse as working in “plantation conditions.” They shared stories of being unable to get water or go to the bathroom for fear of getting penalized or fired.

    It was the Amazon Labour Union at work.

    The letter also reignited debate around a policy of workers not being allowed to carry mobile phone instruments during shifts, cutting them off the outside world and their families. An example cited is of the tornado disaster in Edwardsville Illinois – workers were unaware of the danger because they did not have their phones to notify them.

    Amazon campaign

    Interestingly, Amazon also had the services of big business to discourage employees from voting to join a union. A business that had served as a polling partner for a pro-Biden super PAC ahead of the 2020 election was also hired. This was accompanied by a site  on the worldwide web – unpackjfk8.com.

    The site says: “Will you decide that what you have is worth protecting, working together as One Team? Or will you choose a union that has never represented any associates anywhere, and can offer you no guarantees?”

    Further, explaining what is a union election, the site informs: “This is your workplace. Your opinion matters and your voice matters. If you do not want the ALU to represent you, you should vote, and vote NO.”

     

    Image: Peoples Dispatch

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