Well over 100 employees at Amazon Prime Air have lost their jobs and dozens of other roles are moving to other projects abroad as the company shutters part of its operation in the UK, WIRED understands. Insiders claim the future of the UK operation, which launched in 2016 to help pioneer Amazon’s global drone delivery efforts, is now uncertain.
Those working on the UK team in the last few years, who spoke on condition of anonymity, describe a project that was “collapsing inwards”, “dysfunctional” and resembled “organised chaos”, run by managers that were “detached from reality” in the years building up to the mass redundancies.
Amazon will not stop squeezing every drop from workers until those workers have more power.
“The book is less an examination of the company than an examination of America through its lens.”
Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
During the Covid-19 pandemic, one in four Americans has struggled to pay their bills, and as of mid-January, unemployment claims surpassed those of the Great Recession for the forty-third straight week. As of February, more than 24 million people reported that their households sometimes didn’t have enough to eat. Many lower-income Americans continued to report for in-person jobs without proper protective equipment in dangerously crowded environments like meatpacking plants, warehouses, and hospitals.
For those who could work from home, it became “our patriotic duty” to buy online, wrote ProPublica reporter Alec MacGillis in a November New York Times op-ed. Flattening the curve put the nail in the coffin of in-person retail, which had already endured record closures in 2019. Amazon, meanwhile, hired 250,000 people, taking the total to over a million employees globally. Most of those jobs sucked: They were largely in warehouse and delivery, which have become notoriously brutal jobs at Amazon both physically and mentally (but we’ll get to that). Nine months into 2020, and six months into the pandemic, Amazon had already surpassed its 2019 earnings.
Last week, we saw billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos engage in a massively wasteful ‘space race’ while the entire Western United States suffered from a record-breaking heat wave. Then, after landing, Jeff Bezos had the audacity to thank Amazon workers for paying for his public mid-life crisis.
Back on Earth, the rest of us are paying for billionaire greed too as record temperatures threaten human life and infrastructure in a climate crisis driven by the top 100 companies in the world. Renters have nowhere to go as the eviction moratorium is about to end, and the median price of a house in California has risen by $300,000.
Lack of housing, climate destruction, and poor working conditions all have the same cause: the hoarding and exploitation committed by the billionaire class.
To fight against Bezos, Amazon, and Big Business, we’ll need a mass movement committed to fighting first-hand for what we need. Will you commit to joining our volunteer campaign to tax Amazon in Burbank?
Raise $100 million from tax on companies with the largest square footageBefore they do that, we need to show public support for the terms as passed by the Action Conference:The TAB campaign has officially sent our resolutions from the last Action Conference to the Burbank City Council. Once they add it to the agenda, they’ll debate on whether or not to craft a law that meets our terms. The council will likely attempt to water down the resolutions in an attempt to cater to Big Business in Burbank!
Fund rent and utilities relief due to COVID
Build social housing by union labor with living wages
Fund public schools
Fund a Green New Deal in Burbank
When the council schedules the discussion of the Burbank Amazon Tax, we need Burbankers to show up online to speak up in support! Are you willing to show City Council that Burbank needs a strong tax on Amazon and Big Business?
Stay tuned, and add “Tax Amazon Burbank” to your address book so you won’t miss any updates. We’re heading into a crucial part of the campaign, and it’s going to take all of us to beat Bezos.
Amazon wants to build a new HQ in South Africa by bulldozing over sacred indigenous land.1 And just like when Amazon tried to build a new HQ in New York City, local activists in Cape Town are pushing back.
Amazon didn’t choose a sacred indigenous site by accident. They know it has historical, cultural and environmental significance.2 They just want to destroy and build on it anyway.
But since Amazon is a US company, they’re particularly vulnerable to grassroots pressure here in the US. You can show your solidarity with indigenous activists in South Africa by calling on your member of Congress to denounce this new Amazon headquarters.
Sign the petition: Tell Congress to denounce Amazon’s plan to build a HQ on sacred indigenous land in South Africa!
The indigenous land sits on the banks of the Liesbeek River where in the year 1510 Khoi and San peoples successfully fought back Portuguese colonizers. The area is still a source of pride and cultural heritage for the Khoi, which also survived decades of oppression under Apartheid. But now Amazon wants to bulldoze it and build a sprawling campus.
Over 50,000 residents in Cape Town signed a petition opposing the construction, but Amazon is pushing ahead anyway. That’s why folks on the ground there are asking for your help!
From AfricaNews AFP report:
Last month, the port city approved the construction of a nine-storey commercial and residential complex on a riverside green space, which will be anchored by the US online retail giant’s 70,000 square metre offices. But some descendants of the region’s original inhabitants, the Khoi and San peoples, accuse the project of desecrating their ancestral lands and plead the cultural and environmental significance of the site.
“Our heritage will be completely destroyed,” Aran Goringhaicona told AFP. “This place has a great spiritual significance for us,” added the traditional leader who heads a collective opposed to the project. Together with a group of local residents, the Observatory Civic Association (OCA), they wrote to the developer, Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT), this week to warn it of their intention to challenge the project in court.
If US elected officials publicly denounce this HQ project, Amazon will face an international political and PR nightmare. Activists here in the US successfully blocked an Amazon HQ in New York City. Together you can show solidarity with indigenous activists and help block this new Amazon HQ in South Africa.
Sign the petition: Tell Congress to denounce Amazon’s plan to build a HQ on sacred indigenous land in South Africa!
1. Reuters, “Heritage dispute engulfs site chosen for Amazon’s new African HQ,” June 3, 2021.
2. Africa News, “Controversy over the location of Amazon African headquarters in Cape Town,” May 14, 2021.
As the largest e-commerce retailer in the US, Amazon took advantage of the massive shift to online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic and saw its US sales increase 39 percent during 2020. The company’s size and influence has expanded at an extraordinary pace. In the ten years between 2010 and 2020, Amazon’s workforce grew from 33,700 to nearly 1.3 million and its annual net income increased from $1.1 billion to $21.3 billion.
The company’s obsession with speed has come at a huge cost for Amazon’s workforce. For more than a decade, Amazon has made headlines for dangerous health and safety conditions in its facilities. In 2019, multiple groups of researchers and journalists analyzed standardized records of worker injuries maintained at Amazon facilities. They found that Amazon’s injury rates were over double the injury rate in the notoriously hazardous general warehousing industry.
There’s an eyebrow-raising technology buried inside millions of Amazon Echo smart speakers and Ring security cameras. They have the ability to make a new kind of wireless network called Sidewalk that shares a slice of your home Internet connection with your neighbors’ devices.
At the start of June, Amazon switched Sidewalk on — for everyone.
I’m digging into my settings to turn it off. Sidewalk, which is built into Amazon devices dating back to 2018, raises more red flags than a marching band parade: Is it secure enough to be activated in so many homes? Are we helping Amazon build a vast network that can be used for more surveillance? And why didn’t Amazon ask us to opt-in before activating a capability lying dormant in our devices?
I recommend you opt out of Sidewalk, too, until we get much better answers to these questions.
If you’ve got Echo devices, go to the Alexa app on a phone, then tap the More icon. Then tap on Settings, then tap on Account Settings, then tap on Amazon Sidewalk. In there, make sure “Enabled” is set to off.
If you’ve got Ring devices, go to the Ring app on a phone, then tap the three bars at the top left corner to get to the menu. Then tap Control Center, then scroll down to Amazon Sidewalk.
Modern iPhones collect and beam out tiny snippets of other people’s data for Apple’s Find My network, used to report the location of lost devices and AirTag trackers. The routers that Comcast puts in our homes automatically double as hotspots for other Xfinity customers, though they create a separate WiFi network for the public traffic.
With Sidewalk, Amazon is creating a more robust network. Your lowly Echo speaker (or other compatible device) is already connected to your home’s private Internet connection. When Amazon transforms it into a so-called Sidewalk Bridge, your device creates a new network of its own that’s not WiFi. Instead, it uses common Bluetooth to connect devices nearby, and another type of signal (using the 900 MHz spectrum) to connect to devices up to half a mile away.
This new Sidewalk network can’t carry as much data as WiFi, but it’s still impressive: Sidewalk signals from all the Amazon devices in your neighborhood overlap and join together to create what’s called a mesh network.
Building out Big Brother
There are also big-picture concerns. Today Amazon talks about Sidewalk as a way to help the roughly quarter of American homes with smart-home appliances get and stay connected. But Amazon doesn’t usually have small ambitions.
At the very least, Sidewalk could massively increase the reach of Amazon’s thriving but controversial Ring security business, which police forces tapped for more than 20,000 requests for footage in 2020. Sidewalk would allow people and organizations to put Ring devices in places that weren’t possible before.
“It is slowly eliminating the notion of ‘off-the-grid,’ ” says Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst at the tech-liberties-focused Electronic Frontier Foundation. Even though Amazon is a private company, that doesn’t mean the surveillance tech it sells can’t be dangerous.
Last but not least, Amazon should have made sharing our Internet connection something we opt in to, rather than just turning it on.
Amazon is activating Sidewalk on devices going back to at least the third-generation Echo speaker, from 2018, though it tells me they can only join the Bluetooth part of the network. (Amazon disclosed those devices had Bluetooth, but not that it might someday use them to build a network.) Echo devices capable of joining the long-range part include the latest Echo and Echo Show 10, both announced in 2020.
Amazon Warehouse Kept Working Without Working Air Conditioning (from Payday Report)
At one Amazon warehouse in Kent, Wash., workers were forced to work in heavy heat despite there being no working air conditioning system. The Seattle Times has the story:
Heat precautions were less evident at another of Amazon’s Kent facilities, where interior temperatures neared 90 degrees by midday, a second worker estimated. Not every workstation had functioning fans, that worker said. And some departments were running “power hours,” in which workers are asked to move as quickly as they can for an hour to boost productivity.
“I was sweating immediately,” said the second worker. “I’m really surprised at how ill-prepared they are, given we have known it would be this hot for a little bit now.” Some workers went home early because they couldn’t stand the heat, the worker said.
On Wednesday, Amazon will hold its annual meeting with investors. There, they will continue to celebrate $21.3 billion in pandemic profiteering, dangerous exploitation of workers, and preying on Black, brown and immigrant communities with ICE deportations, police, pollution, and destruction of small business and climate.
Activist shareholders will introduce resolutions to begin to address Amazon’s business model, and your neighbors are assembling at the doors of its biggest shareholders to say we have #EyesOnAmazon shareholders, and expect them to vote with our communities, not Amazon’s destructive agenda.
This year, more than any other, Amazon’s role in our democracy and economy is on the agenda at its shareholder meeting. The pandemic and murder of George Floyd forced a reckoning over racism in America. Organizers and activists fought back against Amazon’s expanding partnerships with violent police departments; protested the firing of Black whistleblowers who worked at Amazon warehouses; and fought Amazon’s environmental damage in Black and brown neighborhoods, disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
This year we expand our fight, showing up beyond warehouses, beyond Jeff Bezos’ 25-bathroom mansion and beyond ICE headquarters in front of the doors of Amazon’s billionaire shareholders in our cities.
See you on the streets!
And here’s the full document to the shareholders spelling out Amazon’s egregious violations of labor, environmental and human rights:
Demonstrations are being held nationally, including here in L.A. about the latest Israeli attacks on Palestine and Palestinians. Stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people against Israeli aggression and settlerism.
In the summer of 2014, Milstein got involved in student government elections at the University of California, Los Angeles. Earlier that year, UCLA’s student government had voted against a resolution for the university to divest from U.S. companies with Israeli army contracts, a cause that pro-Israel activists vehemently opposed. (The school’s student council passed a divestment measure later that year.)
“It’s of extreme importance that they prevail vs. some anti-Israel, pro-BDS students that are competing against them.”
Through the UCLA Hillel, Milstein secretly donated $1,000 to the campaigns of two pro-Israel activists on campus, Avi Oved and Avinoam Baral, who had opposed that measure. The activists asked Milstein to reach out to other pro-Israel donors to contribute to the campaigns of their election slate as well. Milstein’s involvement came to light through leaked emails published by UCLA’s student newspaper.
“It’s of extreme importance that they prevail vs. some anti-Israel, pro-BDS students that are competing against them,” Milstein wrote. In response, Oved thanked him and pledged to stand up against BDS initiatives at the student council.
The revelation of Milstein’s funding rocked the campus, angering students who thought that it was wrong for an outside donor with a committed ideological agenda to secretly fund a student election campaign. That anger was compounded by Milstein’s repeated posts on Twitter, where he scoffed at President Barack Obama’s declaration that Islam is a “religion of peace,” accused Obama of “cuddling up to Islam,” and said the president wanted to destroy America.
“Students had their campaigns funded by outside donors, and nobody knew who they were and what their agenda was,” said Rahim Kurwa, who at the time was a board member for UCLA’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, and is now a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago. “They were making a mockery and sham of any normal democratic process.”
Milstein’s involvement in UCLA student politics extended to funding California college student trips to the AIPAC conference, one pro-Israel advocate from California familiar with Milstein’s work told The Intercept. A Jewish UCLA student at the time also familiar with Milstein’s work said that Milstein invited pro-Israel students over to his house in a wealthy LA suburb to schmooze with his pro-Israel donor friends. The gatherings were meant to give students a chance to request donations for campus elections and to meet potential mentors for future professional connections, establishing a pro-Israel pipeline from UCLA to post-graduate jobs.
“He found his niche. He wanted to be the guy, and that was a space that was relatively untapped and he could have a huge impact,” the California pro-Israel advocate said.
While the student election funding disclosure cast a harsh spotlight on Milstein, he did not step away from campus Israel politics. Instead, he dived deeper into them — and, of late, has poured money into efforts that target individual students who speak out for Palestinian rights.
THE ISRAEL ON Campus Coalition, or ICC, which coordinates with the Israeli government and targets progressive students with secretive online campaigns, has been an outlet for Milstein’s efforts to stifle pro-Palestinian speech at universities. He is a director on the group’s board, according to the coalition’s website as of December 2018, as well as its most recent tax filing, and his foundation has given the group $115,000 since 2010. The ICC did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment.
The coalition’s stated aim is to coordinate the pro-Israel campus activism of a wide array of groups, but it has carried out some of its operations in secrecy. Investigative reporting, however, mostly by The Forward’s Josh Nathan-Kazis, has exposed the coalition’s advocacy work.
Last September, The Forward revealed that the coalition had secretly monitored a workshop organized by Open Hillel, a group of progressive Jewish students seeking to change how Hillel, the major campus Jewish group, operates by getting the student group to include perspectives in favor of Palestinian rights at campus events.
“These donors are really scared that Jewish students will attend colleges across the country and start having nuanced conversations on Israel-Palestine,” said Eva Ackerman, Open Hillel’s national organizer.
The Forward, along with ProPublica, also reported on how the ICC ran a Facebook ad campaign in 2016 accusing Remi Kanazi, a Palestinian-American poet, of “violence and hate.” The ICC did not disclose its involvement with the ad campaign, which appeared to have been the work of students at the campuses Kanazi was visiting for performances at the time.
Perhaps most disturbing for campus activists, The Forward exposed how the ICC operates the group SJP Uncovered, which accuses the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine of anti-Semitism, racism, and terrorism, and trawls through the social media pages of college students involved in Palestinian rights work. SJP Uncovered has gone as far as comparing Jewish supporters of Palestinian rights to the Ku Klux Klan. Much like Canary Mission, another anonymous blacklist website, the ICC plasters students’ names and faces on SJP Uncovered’s website, Twitter, and Facebook pages, often taking quotes out of context and fueling online harassment of students. (Milstein is said to be a funder of Canary Mission, according to an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera, though he has denied the allegation. Eric Gallagher, the former pro-Israel advocate who said Milstein funded Canary Mission in the documentary, told Milstein that Al Jazeera had selectively edited his quote to make it appear he was saying Milstein backed the blacklist.)
PS You can access the censored Al Jazeera documentary “The Lobby,” featuring undercover exposes of the people running pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian advocacy in the US via this website: