Amazon employees in Bessemer, Alabama, have been organizing to form a union. It’s worth remembering why Amazon employees might want a union in the first place.
In October 2020, Amazon admitted that at least twenty thousand of its employees had been infected by COVID. And since in December another four hundred cases were revealed at Amazon facilities in just one Canadian province, we can safely assume that the total number is now thousands higher. And, despite public statements to the contrary, Amazon’s employee safety record actually got worse between 2016 and 2019. Leaked documents showed fourteen thousand “serious” injuries in 2019 alone, including one man crushed by a forklift in an Indiana distribution center. And despite misleading websites designed to make prospective drivers think Amazon cares about them and their families, Amazon has even cheated workers out of $61 million of their own tips! (No, we’re not joking.)
So, after all that, plus reports that Jeff Bezos’ wealth has grown by nearly $70 billion during the pandemic while workers struggled for survival as if in the Hunger Games, Amazon workers in Alabama decided they’d had enough, and began to organize. And how has Amazon responded? They did what every other big business does when workers threaten to unionize: an anti-union messaging campaign using social media, the web, and “captive audience” meetings in which workers are bombarded with anti-union propaganda.
Jeff Bezos and Amazon: a direct threat to workers health and life! Yet all par for the course in our profit-driven system.
Workers need to organize to protect themselves from the system’s worst abuses. But in the process of building a union, it’s possible that they’ll discover an even larger truth that Bezos and other corporate titans never want us to know: The boss needs us – we don’t need the boss!