Kentucky Workers Fight for a Union at Amazon’s Biggest Air Hub

I work as a tug driver at Amazon’s international air hub in Northern Kentucky (KCVG). My co-workers and I are taking up one of many largest firms on this planet to get what we deserve.

Our important calls for are for a $30-an-hour beginning wage, 180 hours a 12 months of paid time without work, and union illustration at disciplinary conferences to finish favoritism and retaliation.

This $1.5 billion facility is a flagship for Amazon — it’s the corporate’s largest air hub. Jeff Bezos personally broke floor on it in 2019.

Earlier this month, night time shift employees confronted a double disaster when a transformer exploded in the course of a twister warning with wind speeds above 45 miles per hour. Amazon was forcing them to work by way of excessive wind speeds, with administration periodically calling floor stops all through the shift.

Then, after the fireplace alarm went off, tons of of employees needed to evacuate the constructing regardless of the twister warning. Staff had been screaming and crying, considering they had been both going to die in a hearth or probably face a twister exterior.

One co-worker informed me that every one she might consider was the twister at an Amazon facility in Illinois in 2021, the place six employees had been killed in a catastrophic constructing collapse after Amazon refused to close down the ability.

These are the stakes for Amazon employees — it’s both our lives or Amazon’s earnings. Sufficient is sufficient! We’re going to struggle to have a good residing and actual energy in our office with a union. I’m proud to be a member of the organizing committee for Unionize Amazon KCVG.

Combating For The Peak Pay We Deserve

The organizing on the Kentucky cargo heart started within the fall. Final October, whereas inflation soared and our paychecks had been stretched even thinner, KCVG administration rounded us up for an all-hands assembly at 5:00 within the morning, the place they introduced an insulting $0.60-an-hour “price of residing adjustment” increase.

This felt like a slap within the face, after months of rumors of a $1-$2 increase for the height vacation season — an anticipated non permanent pay bump that employees plan for and depend on throughout the busiest time of the 12 months. The earlier 12 months we had acquired a $2-an-hour bonus throughout peak season from mid-October to January .

Dozens of my co-workers stormed out of the assembly and over half of my division left work earlier than the day even began. One among my co-workers stated he was so indignant that he couldn’t even deliver himself to take a look at anybody in administration.

It was clear to many people that the whole lot was on the chopping block. Amazon was not going to present us something except we acquired organized.

The following day, a number of co-workers and I started circulating a petition to reinstate peak pay. Inside weeks we gathered tons of of signatures. Dozens of our co-workers wore stickers at work that learn, “We deserve an actual increase — deliver again peak pay and make it a everlasting increase.”

We delivered our petition to administration on October 24 in a morning stand-up assembly with tons of of our co-workers watching. Administration refused to answer us as a gaggle. By that time, it was clear we would have liked a union.

Our organizing committee started drafting calls for at weekly conferences. On November 10, we voted to go public as an impartial body of workers in search of a union at KCVG.

Since then, we now have brazenly distributed our marketing campaign materials at shift adjustments. We’ve held dozens of conferences and coaching periods to get co-workers concerned. And now we’re getting ready to take our union drive to the subsequent stage on March 18.

Defending Jobs Throughout Firing Season

It’s now firing season at Amazon, and no employee is protected with out a union. From January to March, Amazon fires 1000’s of employees company-wide on minor infractions to chop prices after the height season.

At KCVG, 150 employees have been fired because the first of this 12 months. That’s a mean of two employees day by day dropping their livelihood and being humiliated. They’re walked off the job by administration and safety as in the event that they’re being arrested.

On January 17 Amazon fired Edward Clarke, a revered co-worker and a member of our organizing committee. Ed is a load planner — it’s his job to stability the weights and masses on Amazon’s planes to make sure that flights depart and arrive safely.

If we had a union in the present day, Ed could be a store steward. He’s not a “sure man” who will go together with no matter administration says. He has all the time pushed again on administration at any time when they tried to chop corners, work individuals by way of their breaks, and deal with us unfairly. Amazon knew that Ed grew to become an actual menace when he acquired concerned in our marketing campaign, and that’s why they fired him.

However when Amazon goes on the offensive, we struggle again twice as exhausting.

By final month, we had raised over $23,000 to lease an workplace close to the air hub and start organizing a job protection marketing campaign for 5 employees at KCVG who had been caught within the crossfire of Amazon’s union-busting and ruthless firing season. This could not have been attainable with out help from unions and dealing individuals exterior of Amazon who’ve donated to our marketing campaign.

Constructing a Employee-led Union

A union-busting marketing campaign is a warfare on the reality. Amazon has created a poisonous office tradition; administration makes use of a monstrous rumor mill in opposition to anybody who challenges its authority.

In our job protection marketing campaign we’re demonstrating what it means to be a union within the office, and what we imply after we say solidarity.

To have a combating likelihood in opposition to Amazon, we consider the one method is to construct a workforce of affiliates who talk about technique and calls for, and who lead the day-to-day exercise of the union drive ourselves. This implies recruiting lively help from co-workers from each shift, job description, background, gender, race, ethnicity, and language group in our office.

Even with union help at document highs within the U.S., many employees nonetheless have to be satisfied to affix a union — together with those that had a nasty expertise in a earlier union job, and the various younger employees who merely don’t know what a union is.

It’s our accountability to indicate our co-workers what a union is by making daring, concrete calls for and combating again in opposition to retaliation. We use our calls for to show to our co-workers what we stand to realize — not simply “a seat on the desk,” however security at work and a top quality way of life. Our calls for are entrance and heart in the whole lot we do, even our logo!

We have now been beneath heavy fireplace from Amazon administration at KCVG since Edward Clarke was fired on January 17 — however our exercise has been contagious amongst our co-workers.

After we had been hit with a heavy snowstorm months in the past, complete plane-side crews of employees refused to maneuver freight and work across the planes, and sat down within the break rooms till the tip of their shift.

When employees noticed a bedbug outbreak of their crew van, they had been informed they might be despatched dwelling with out pay. However they took motion: they sat down exterior the Human Sources workplace till they acquired their day’s pay.

When administration went after the cargo tractor drivers in my division for “time theft,” a co-worker of mine printed vinyl goal stickers for us to put on on our backs, to indicate administration that we weren’t going to again off for concern of dropping our jobs.

We’re ready to do no matter it takes to win a union at KCVG and assist rebuild a combating labor motion.

Launch Rally on March 18

We’re holding a rally on March 18 on the KCVG facility to launch the subsequent section of our marketing campaign.

For the final week and a half, my co-workers and I’ve been distributing flyers on the break room and out of doors the ability after work. We’re doing standouts a number of instances every week, phonebanking, and texting each employee we all know. Yard indicators and banners promoting the rally and our calls for now line the streets exterior the air hub.

In case you reside within the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky space and help our struggle for a union, please attend our rally, and consider donating to our effort. After we win, union employees are going to deal with each Amazon bundle that strikes by way of KCVG.

Griffin Ritze is a tug driver on the air hub. This text was tailored from remarks on the Staff Strike Again launch occasion in Seattle.

This text was initially revealed at Labor Notes.

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