By By Joyce Chediac (Liberation)
Amazon workers are subjected to dangerous, exhausting and stressful conditions. This includes mandatory 70-hour work weeks, and working with dangerously defective machinery in overheated and under-ventilated spaces. Impossible deadlines and constant speedup has employees peeing into garbage cans and water bottles because they have is no time for bathroom breaks. Wages can be so low that some full-time workers need government assistance to feed their families.
The megacorporation has the gall to claim that it meets the needs of its workers, and they “don’t need union protections.” Secretly, however, it is training management to derail or crush any union organizing that takes place.
The workers are fighting back. From Staten Island to Spain, Amazon employees are holding strikes and walk-outs to demand their right to work a normal work week, in safe conditions, with dignity, at a livable wage.
‘Robots are treated better’
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) last month filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Amazon for unfair labor practices. Amazon fired Justin Rashad Long from its Staten Island, NY, warehouse (called a “fulfillment center” by the company) on Feb. 12. Amazon is alleging safety violations, but the union calls this a “pretext for being outspoken against the working conditions at the facility.” It is illegal to fire a worker for organizing. The RWDSU is organizing workers at the Staten Island warehouse and at Amazon-owned Whole Foods.
Long sees his firing as “a clear act of retaliation” for speaking out against intolerable working conditions and attempting to organize his co-workers. Long, who worked for Amazon as an overnight “picker,” spoke at several union rallies, describing his 70-hour work week with few breaks, unhealthy conditions, and sprinkler systems and smoke detectors that are dysfunctional,. He described being forced to work 12-hour shifts in the freezing cold or such extreme heat that workers fainted.
We are “treated like animals,” with “robots treated better.” Long said, “We have asked the company to provide air conditioning, but they told us that the robots inside can’t work in the cold weather, so there’s nothing they can do about it.”
The union’s complaint comes just a month after community and labor opposition forced Amazon to abandon plans to open a corporate campus in Queens, NY. Among the things this struggle exposed was the company’s union-busting. While Amazon spokespeople have long maintained they meet their workers’ needs, and no union is needed, Amazon’s Vice-President Brian Huseman was forced to go on record in the Dec. 13 New York City Council meeting as clearly hostile to unions. No U.S. Amazon facility is unionized.
Read more: Workers to Amazon: ‘We are not robots!’