Editor’s note: The following is a statement from the Amazon Workers Collective. Rankandfile.ca is sharing this call-out in the interest of advancing the cause of mutual protection in the workplace, unionizing Amazon, and taking on Jeff Bezos and his corporate empire.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the rotten core of our economic system. Wall Street and Bay Street hum along as businesses leech off government stimulus packages while workers face skyrocketing unemployment, and housing insecurity.
The stark contrast between the lives of the owners and those of the workers can be seen clearest when we look at Amazon. Owner Jeff Bezos, already the richest person on earth, saw his wealth increase to $150 BILLION, while the workers at his fulfillment centres work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. In fact, Bezos has benefited from this crisis both by dumping billions of his own stock before the markets tanked, and by solidifying his stranglehold over sellers and consumers during the most recent spike in online shopping, helping to bury the retail sector in the process.
Bezos has not gotten this far without exploiting his workers in every way imaginable. From low wages, to high turnover, to the grueling work process, everything is done in order to extract as much as possible from the workforce. During this pandemic is no different. It took weeks to get workers facemasks and temperature checks while thousands of new hires were streaming into the building – none of whom had been tested for COVID. Amazon takes every opportunity to discipline workers for not practising social distancing, when it creates the conditions that render that distancing impossible.
Workers are rightfully mad. There are no shortage of grievances. Currently, workers are building the organizing resources needed to fightback.
Inspired by worker-activists in the US, Italy, Germany, and beyond, we have developed a network of Canadian Amazon warehouse workers, as well as labour and social justice activists committed to organizing through salting. Salting is the practise of getting a job somewhere with the explicit goal of trying to organize a union. We know that most standard organizing tactics will never work on Amazon, whose endless wealth and influence allow it to and hire and fire at will. Only through workers organizing on the job can we build the trust and confidence needed in order to withstand the anti-union campaign that Amazon will unleash on any group of workers trying to form a union.
Already small groups of workers are forming committees. As we stare down a prolonged economic slump, Amazon will try to take advantage of precarious workers to impose ever-worse conditions. These committees will be the nucleus of resistance to their discipline, making displays of collective action to inspire bolder behaviour. We want to grow this underground network and begin to coordinate across facilities, seeding every Amazon warehouse with workers ready to take action.
If you are a progressive activist in Canada and Quebec who wants to build working class power, join us! We will connect you to others where you will be working, prepare you for life working at Amazon, and train you to organize. This is the fight of our lives, and we’d love to have you on our side!
Amazon Workers Collective