Amazon, recognize your workers’ humanity!

by STUART APPELBAUM President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

December 7, 2022

Amazon’s continued mistreatment of workers sparked huge protests across the globe on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, with workers and activists at 140 actions in more than 40 countries bringing attention to the company’s appalling, dehumanizing and abusive behavior. 

The Make Amazon Pay campaign—an international union-led coalition of labor, progressive and activist organizations—is holding Amazon to account for treating workers as disposable commodities, for its environmental policies and for failing to pay its taxes. The campaign is leading actions such as those on Black Friday to demand Amazon raise worker pay, create safer workplaces, extend sick leave, provide job security, end union busting, respect workers’ rights and operate sustainably. The campaign is also demanding that Amazon pay back to society by paying its taxes in full and ending its abuse of tax loopholes.  

Protests, demonstrations and walkouts worldwide focused on how Amazon exploits workers and hurts communities. Workers at 18 distribution centers in France and Germany went on strike. In St. Peters, Missouri, Amazon workers walked off the job at the STL8 distribution center. At the Amazon distribution center in Bessemer, Alabama, where employees have been trying to unionize with the RWDSU since 2020, workers joined community groups and other unions including striking Alabama mine workers in a show of solidarity. And in New York City, dozens of activists protested outside of Jeff Bezos’ $23 million luxury apartment, demanding the Amazon chief’s attention. Amazon workers endure unsafe work speeds, unreasonable work quotas, dangerous work and insufficient breaks, all of which contribute to the skyrocketing rate of injuries in the industry. Workers’ productivity is monitored so closely that they are afraid to take bathroom breaks.

In New York, the warehouse industry has alarmingly high injury rates. Amazon workers are injured at a rate of six per 100, which is five times the average in New York. While all warehouse work is dangerous, Amazon warehouse workers are 54% more likely than others in the industry to get sick or hurt on the job.

It’s a matter of decency, morality and often literally, life and death. We want Amazon to listen, and we want Amazon to change. Workers from New York to Alabama and from Leipzig to New Delhi want better pay, safer workplaces and a voice at work. Most of all, they want dignity and respect, and to be treated like humans from a company that can afford to change the way it operates.

You can also read the column in New York Amsterdam News.