7 April 2021
While the online retailer Amazon had a successful pandemic, as the public stayed away from traditional bricks-and-mortar stores (with many countries closing all but essential stores) and joining the legions of ‘buy now’ and ‘add to basket’ consumers.
The workforce is now fighting back over poor working conditions and anti-trade union activity by the employer.
- Progressive International started last year the make Amazon pay campaign.
- Over 75% of Amazon workers in Italy went on strike on 22 March 2021
Striking workers who spoke to the media described conditions of brutal exploitation. Francesca, 30, told La Repubblica,
“When you are involved in picking, you have to do the same movement for eight hours, inside a cage. You do not change. Within a few days, you have pain in your arms, back and knees. On the third day, a picker was unable to walk due to the leg pain. … After a month, your wrist tendons ache. Every now and then someone faints.”
- A recent 4-day strike in Germany (March) has taken place over pay and working conditions.
In the United States, Amazon warehouse workers are fighting for union recognition in a hostile environment.
Workers at an Amazon warehouse in the Deep South are hoping to make history by establishing the company’s first unionized workplace in the United States. Amazon can easily afford a unionized workforce. During the coronavirus pandemic, while workers were forced to choose between their safety or livelihoods, Amazon’s revenue swelled to more than $100 billion in the last three of months of 2020, a record-busting windfall, as professionals hunkered down at home did their shopping online.
Workers cited rates for picking items for delivery as high as 400 per hour or 2,500 per day. The rates have increased as Amazon’s peak holiday season has begun, even as coronavirus cases have constantly been reported among workers at the warehouse.
“It’s kind of impossible to hit rates, we just do the best that we can. If we don’t meet rates, we get threatened to get demoted to the position where we started … They threaten you or you can get fired,”
said an Amazon employee at BHM1 who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
“It’s been frustrating. Every day there’s a new rule or something different we have to do,” they said. “People have been threatened with getting fired if they find out they’re involved with the union.”
We should know the results of the union recognition ballot in Alabama very soon and if successful it may result in many more union recognition claims from disgruntled employees.