This Holiday Season Could Be Watershed Moment for Amazon Organizers

May this November see the most important coordinated worldwide day of motion at Amazon but?

Though Thanksgiving is a novel U.S. vacation, the day after — often called “Black Friday” — is widely known in lots of international locations because the opening of the Christmas purchasing season. In Italy, for instance, retailers provide Black Friday reductions that fill their shops with the identical bargain-hungry customers as within the U.S.

That’s why three Italian commerce union federations selected it as a strategic day in 2017 to strike Amazon’s million-square-foot distribution middle in Castel San Giovanni, close to Piacenza in Northern Italy.

The San Giovanni facility opened in 2015. Two years later, half of the 1,650 everlasting “Blue Badge” staff struck on Black Friday. Whereas there had been some earlier job actions at Amazon in Germany, this was one of many first Amazon strikes in Europe, or, actually, anyplace.

Amazon spokespersons insisted that the strike was solely 10 % of the workforce as a result of they like to undercount and since they factored within the 2,000 “Inexperienced Badge” staff — short-term and seasonal staff — who largely got here to work. However, the corporate agreed to barter with the unions the next Monday.

Then administration canceled negotiations and sought to reschedule the assembly unilaterally for the next January. The unions warned there could be extra actions if there have been no substantive face-to-face discussions by December 6. In a victory for the unions, on December 5, Amazon administration agreed to satisfy and subsequently bargained enhancements in working circumstances.

The Italian actions and later Amazon strikes in Germany and Poland have been massively inspirational to us (actually Peter Olney was in Italy through the Castel San Giovanni strike). We believed they’d assist inspire extra employee organizing within the U.S. and thus started urging young activists to get jobs at Amazon.

Coalition Targets Amazon

Since 2017, coordinated worldwide actions focusing on Amazon have elevated. In 2019, UNI International Union and Progressive Worldwide launched Make Amazon Pay, a coalition uniting over 70 commerce unions, civil society organizations, environmentalists, and tax watchdogs. The coalition’s unifying calls for are that Amazon pay its staff pretty and respect their proper to hitch unions, pay its justifiable share of taxes, and decide to actual environmental sustainability.

Final November, peak season actions occurred in 25 international locations all over the world. Nonetheless, previous participation by unions and organizations within the U.S. has been modest at greatest.

The organizing successes at Amazon services — together with successful a Nationwide Labor Relations Board vote at a Staten Island Achievement Heart in April — and the numerous walkouts over pay and conditions in Amazon facilities from Maryland to California displays a brand new spirit of labor militancy within the U.S. Constructing on that chance, UNI International lately convened a gathering of rank-and-file Amazon organizers and union leaders to start planning for Black Friday actions within the U.S. We hope it will result in high-profile walkouts and rallies focusing on U.S. Amazon services on November 25.

Along with the substantial enhance in employee organizing at Amazon, different components may contribute to broader assist and participation in U.S. Black Friday actions this 12 months:

  • The Teamsters have already begun a contract marketing campaign for his or her 340,000 members at UPS;
  • Members of the Worldwide Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), the West Coast dockworkers union, are working with no contract as negotiations proceed with the Pacific Maritime Affiliation;
  • Railroad staff are voting on nationwide agreements bargained with the large freight railroads. The membership of the Brotherhood of Upkeep of Approach Staff, the third largest rail union, simply voted to reject the contract and will strike as early as November 19. Votes within the two largest unions, representing engineers and conductors, are pending. If members vote to reject these agreements, it may result in a dramatic work stoppage affecting the 40 % of U.S. GNP that travels on rail;
  • The elevated assist for unions typically — because of the brave organizing by Starbucks and Amazon staff, outstanding strikes by Nabisco, Frito-Lay, Kellogg’s, and John Deere staff, and the respect for the position of important staff through the pandemic — signifies that Black Friday protests shall be perceived as a part of a much wider labor motion.

May these mixed developments result in a “Peak Season” second when logistics staff at many firms throughout your complete sector take motion collectively? Think about Teamster drivers and warehouse staff protesting at UPS barns, then marching to close by Amazon services to assist walkouts by staff there. Or dockworkers and railroad staff taking their message to staff at intermodal services that deal with Amazon freight. Or 1000’s of warehouse and supply staff at smaller firms utilizing Black Friday as a strategic alternative to dramatize their energy within the provide chain and start forming their very own unions.

Whereas a lot of the above could solely be a dream for this November, it’s the course that the labor motion is headed in. For now, it’s lifelike to examine U.S.-based peak season actions dovetailing properly with Make Amazon Pay actions all over the world. Logistics staff of the world, unite!