Labor actions

Workers Fight Back Against Amazon Retaliation

Amazon Retaliation: Workers Striking Back


Photograph Source: Fibonacci Blue – CC BY 2.0

Amazon and its contractors have a pattern of retaliating against and intimidating employees who speak out. I know – because they also tried to do it to me.

Last week, my Amazon coworkers in New York took the courageous step of walking off the job to protest our company’s lack of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Amazon workers in Detroit and Chicago have followed suit, demanding that Amazon shut down any warehouse where positive cases of the virus are found, to ensure a thorough cleaning.

Out of a selfish concern for their profits, Amazon has refused to take this basic step, despite repeated requests from Amazon workers, including a petition signed last month by over 4,500 of us.

Now, Amazon employees have tested positive in at least 19 warehouses around the country, and the situation has become dire. So my coworkers are taking action.

But rather than act to protect our health, Amazon’s wealthy executives have chosen to retaliate against employees who speak out. In a brazen attempt to suppress employee dissent, they responded to the Staten Island walkout by firing its main organizer, Chris Smalls.

This decision came from the highest levels of the company. In leaked meeting notes between Jeff Bezos and company executives, Amazon Senior Vice President and General Counsel, David Zapolsky, made racist, anti-worker remarks against Chris, calling him “not smart or articulate” and arguing the company should make him “the face of the entire union/organizing movement.”

The billionaires and executives at Amazon want control, and they are terrified by the idea of workers getting organized to demand things like paid sick leave, hazard pay, and safe working conditions that might have the slightest impact on their billions of dollars in profits. The executives are nervous at the increased questioning by their rank-and-file, including tech and corporate employees. That’s why they are desperate to prevent workers like Chris from speaking out. As Chris put it in an interview with socialist Seattle councilmember Kshama Sawant, by firing him, Amazon is “trying to cut off the head of the snake.”

Labor actions

More Protests Against Amazon COVID-19 Endangerment

Amazon workers at a fulfillment center near Detroit, Michigan, plan to walk out over the company’s handling of COVID-19. Workers at the facility, called DTW1, say management failed to notify them of the first new coronavirus case and was slow to alert them to the second, leading them to suspect there are more infections at the warehouse than they’re being told about. The workers also say that shortages of cleaning supplies, crowded conditions, and a pace of work that leaves little time for sanitation put them at risk of infection. They are calling on Amazon to be more transparent about the virus and immediately close and clean the warehouse.

On the morning of the walkout, workers received an alert that a third worker had tested positive for the virus.

The walkout is the latest in a series of labor actions at Amazon facilities. On Monday night, workers at a Chicago delivery station walked off the job in protest of Amazon’s refusal to close the building for cleaning after a worker tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier that day, workers at a Staten Island fulfillment center walked out, also calling on Amazon to close the facility for cleaning. At the time, Amazon had confirmed only one case of COVID-19 at the Staten Island facility, but, as with DTW1, workers suspected there were more. Amazon has since confirmed that five workers are infected with the virus, according to notifications viewed by The Verge.

Workers in New York and Chicago have been organizing for better working conditions since long before the pandemic, but workers at DTW1 say the facility hasn’t been a major site of protests, a sign that frustration with Amazon’s handling of the virus is beginning to galvanize its larger workforce.

Labor actions

Whole Foods, warehouse workers demand time off, hazard pay

Amazon warehouse workers are walking out and Whole Foods workers are striking

In solidarity with warehouse workers, tech workers at Amazon are demanding the company provide fully paid family leave for people who miss work, provide fully paid leave to all Amazon workers, close facilities immediately following contamination, ensure full paid leave for workers whose jobs are impacted by such closures and ensure everyone has unlimited time to take care of their health.

“Recognizing the urgency of the moment, tech workers are going beyond asking Amazon to take action and are pledging not to work for Amazon if it fails to act,” the DC Tech Workers Coalition wrote in a petition. “We also pledge to ask organizations in our communities such as universities and conferences to not accept Amazon as a sponsor or participant in events.”

Meanwhile, workers at Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, are organizing a “sick out” strike tomorrow to demand better protections on the job, Vice reports.

According to Vice, Whole Foods workers will call in sick tomorrow and demand paid sick leave for those who stay at home or self-quarantine during the pandemic. They will also demand free coronavirus testing for employees and hazard pay.

Led by group Whole Worker, the sick-out was originally planned for May 1, but was moved up in response to reports that workers have started getting sick and testing positive for COVID-19.

“As this situation has progressed, our fundamental needs as workers have become more urgent,” the group wrote on its campaign page. “COVID-19 poses a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and our customers. We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us.”

Whole Worker is a group of Whole Foods team members who are not officially unionized, given Amazon’s (Whole Foods’s parent company) long history of union busting. In a petition, they call on all Whole Foods employees to not go to work on March 31, and note that “Whole Foods has temporarily relaxed its strict attendance policy, which means that team members can participate in this act of protest without fear of reprisal.” They are staging the “sick out” in response to the lack of protections they feel management has given them, which put both workers and customers at risk.

Local coverage:

Whole Foods workers organizing ‘global sickout’ on Tuesday

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Whole Foods Wants Workers to Donate Sick Leave to Ailing Co-Workers

We guess this is part of the way HOW Jeff Bezos got to be the world’s richest man. And this is at a time when Amazon is making money hand over fist because of the shift to remote shopping and goods delivery due to the physical distancing and stay-at-home orders.–20200315-0007.html

“With the amount Jeff Bezos makes in one day, he could shut stores down and pay employees to stay safe,” a former employee said.

Employees of Whole Foods, which is owned by the richest person on the planet Jeff Bezos, were asked to give their own accumulated paid sick days to their co-workers forced to stop working because of the new coronavirus pandemic.

The executives of the grocery chain proposed employees to do so knowing the company is able to give its workers unlimited paid sick leave during what has been declared a national emergency in the United States (U.S.).

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said in an email sent Wednesday to staffers that one of the options available to face the coronavirus crisis was to put their “paid time off” (PTO) days into a pool that other workers could take from.

“Team Members who have a medical emergency or death in their immediate family can receive donated PTO hours, not only from Team Members in their own location but also from Team Members across the country,” Mackey wrote in the email.

“As a subsidiary of Amazon, the world’s biggest company, Whole Foods could easily afford to pay its hourly employees for sick days taken during the coronavirus outbreak without breaking the bank. Instead, the company has put the onus back on workers, and they’re not happy about it,” Journalist Lauren Kaori Gurley, who broke the story for Motherboard, said.

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World’s Richest Man Wants Your Donations to His Workers

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos faces backlash after publicising a relief fund the public can donate to for his contract employees working during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Amazon Relief Fund was created with $25m from the e-commerce company to assist its “employees and partners”, specifically those who are responsible for the necessary task of delivering all the products consumers order across the US.

It’s focused on “supporting our US-based Delivery Associates employed by Delivery Service Providers, our Amazon Flex Delivery Partners, and Associates working for Integrity Staffing, Adecco Staffing, and RES Staffing, and drivers and support team members of line haul partners under financial distress due to a Covid-19 diagnosis or quarantine.”

Besides the company contributing $25m to the fund, it also allows the public to donate if they deem it important. “While we aren’t expecting anyone to do so, you can make a voluntary donation to the fund if you desire to do so,” Amazon wrote on its fund’s website.

Labor actions

Strikes at Amazon Warehouses in France

Image: Révolution

Strikes have broken out in several Amazon warehouses in France, to demand the closure of the sites and full payment of wages. Gregory Lavainne, activist and delegate from the UNSA trade union on the ORY1 site in Saran (close to Orléans), explains the situation.

Read the original in French

Révolution: How did the mobilization start?

Gregory Lavainne: After Macron’s first televised address, on Thursday 12 March, we asked the site management what they were planning on doing to ensure the safety of the workers. They just answered that they were going to apply the government’s recommendations.

Concretely, the managers asked the workers to respect the 1-meter distancing. But in reality, this is impossible to maintain: we cross paths with each other all the time in our work, and often at less than 1 meter’s distance.

They also reorganized breaks, so that there would only be 100 of us taking a break at the same time, rather than 200. They asked us to only take up one out of two chairs in the break room. Basically, a shoddy patch-up job.

What did you reply and demand?

We said that this wasn’t going far enough. We demanded that there be hand sanitizer gel available for all workers. They had put some in, but it quickly ran out. So they put in a kind of “antibacterial mousse” and said that would do the job. We demanded gel but they said they couldn’t find any. That’s their problem, not ours! They found some since then, but we fear that it won’t last and that they’re going to stick us with the mousse again.

We also demanded that all workers have their temperature taken when they come into the warehouse, when they go through the metal detectors. We know this isn’t enough, since you can be contagious without having a fever. But at least those who have a fever won’t come onto the site.

Instead of this, when a worker gets sick, management just sends them home and declares it a “flu-like condition”.

Amazon factory flickrStrikes have broken out in several Amazon warehouses in France, to demand the closure of the sites and full payment of wages / Image: Flickr, Álvaro Ibáñez

Finally, we asked for gloves and FFP2 masks for all workers who wanted to wear them.

We asked for all of this formally, via email. But we received no answer. Complete silence.

On the other hand, we found out that management and HR staff are now mostly working from home. It’s always up to the same people, ordinary people, to take all the risks.

When did you demand the closure of the site?

After Macron’s second speech, on Monday evening. We formed a joint union assembly and called on the workers to go on strike on Wednesday to demand the closure of the warehouse and full payment of the workers’ wages.

The strike was well attended: 130 strikers in the morning, 150 in the afternoon. We saw that the majority of the workers were relieved!

Then, the manager told us that it was impossible to close the site, that she couldn’t make that decision, that it would have to be decided by the French management of Amazon or even at the Seattle headquarters in the USA. Even in Spain and in Italy, where there were confirmed cases of contagion in some warehouses, they didn’t close them. And we are still getting delivery pallets from Spain and Italy.

We put up some posters on the walls of the warehouse on Wednesday, on which we wrote: “As Seattle counts its dollars, Europe buries its dead”.

Usually, on the site, management never stops reminding us: “safety first!”. But now we are seeing that that’s rubbish: in reality it’s “profits first!”.

The managers of Amazon have also let it be known that they would fight against anyone exercising their right to refuse work on health and safety grounds (droit de retrait) by docking their pay.

And now?

We are still demanding the closure of the warehouse and full payment of wages. And in terms of immediate actions, we have taken over the inspection of the work. We filed to declare “Grave and imminent danger” (a French labour law provision that allows workers to refuse work on health and safety grounds). An investigation has been opened. We are demanding the implementation of the measures I listed: FFP2 masks, gel, gloves, taking of temperature, and others: water bottles instead of water fountains; cutting the number of workers on each shift in half, with partial unemployment measures; a systematic disinfection of the places most susceptible to disease transmission. All that said, the only really effective measure would be to close the site. And that’s what we are going to keep fighting for.

Attacks on BDS

Anti-BDS Laws Violate Our Freedom



Americans’ free-speech and other rights are being violated by state laws aimed at stifling the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Movement against Israel’s illegal rule of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, both conquered over half a century ago. Twenty-eight states have enacted anti-BDS laws or executive orders that prohibit state agencies and state-financed entities, such as colleges, from doing business with any person or firm that hasn’t pledged never to boycott Israeli goods.

Photograph Source: Kate Ausburn – CC BY 2.0

Appropriately, these laws have come under fire as violations of both free speech and the right to engage in boycotts, which consist of peaceful decisions not to buy products of a particular origin.

Attacks on BDS

Major League Baseball Cancels involvement in Roger Waters Tour over BDS

Major League Baseball (MLB) has made the decision to stop promoting Roger Waters’ tour due to his ongoing support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the Associated Press reported on Sunday.

The MLB, which was sponsoring ticket pre-sales for Waters’ “This is Not a Drill” tour, made the decision to halt its promotion following criticisms from Jewish advocacy groups, the report said.


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Amazon accused of bias in West Bank settlements

Amazon accused of bias in West Bank settlements

Free shipping for anyone who lists address as Israel attacked as discriminatory. Customers who select their address as the Palestinian Territories are subject to shipping and handling fees upwards of $24

by Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem and Max Harlow in London

Amazon is offering free shipping to highly contentious Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, but only to their Palestinian neighbours if they list their country as Israel, an FT investigation has found.

The e-commerce giant started selling in Israel in November and offers free shipping on orders of more than $49.

The FT checked all the West Bank addresses listed as Israeli by the activist organisation Peace Now and found that Amazon’s offer extends to nearly all Israeli settlements in the contested region, which are considered illegal under international law.

But Palestinian customers who select their address as the Palestinian Territories are subject to shipping and handling fees upwards of $24.

Nick Caplin, an Amazon spokesman, said that “if a customer within the Palestinian Territories enters their address and selects Israel as the country, they can receive free shipping through the same promotion”.

Contested territory

Israel has occupied the West Bank since it wrested the region from Jordanian control in the 1967 war. Today, it is home to some 460,000 Israelis, who live in settlements widely considered illegal by the international community. Palestinians have decried the increasing normalisation of these settlements, which are guarded by the Israeli military, as a barrier to an eventual negotiated peace with Israel.

Last month the Trump administration rolled out its long-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which in effect called for the creation of a fractured, rump Palestinian state surrounded by Israel. The Palestinians were outraged, with President Mahmoud Abbas arguing that the plan “detracts from Palestinian rights and denies all agreements and resolutions of international legitimacy”.

Mail deliveries to the Israeli-occupied West Bank must pass through Israel before reaching the Palestinian territory, and are often subject to long delays. Human rights campaigners said that by offering the discount exclusively to addresses listed as Israeli West Bank settlements, and not the Palestinian Territories, Amazon is wading into a geopolitical dispute that is increasingly creating two sets of rules for two increasingly intertwined populations.

Michael Sfard, an Israeli international human rights lawyer, said that Amazon’s policy is “blatant discrimination between potential customers on the basis of their nationality” in a single geopolitical area.

Peace Now said that the discrepancy in Amazon’s services between Israelis and Palestinians “adds to the overall picture of one group of people enjoying the privileges of citizenship while another people living in the same territory do not”.

‘100 or 200 packages every day’

Until last year, Amazon existed in Israel only as a means to buy from international sellers, a limitation that meant high prices and long delivery times. That changed in 2019 as the company courted local sellers to use the platform to sell locally and globally, as well as launching a Hebrew-language version of its website in August.

With retail prices in Israel notoriously high compared to incomes, and little domestic competition for consumer goods, Amazon’s arrival came as welcome news for many Israelis.

In the West Bank settlement of Efrat, home to around 10,000 Israelis, there has been such a massive increase in parcels in recent months that the overwhelmed post office pressed the butcher shop next door into delivering packages to customers.

“Every day 100 or 200 packages from Amazon,” said Meir Cohen, an Efrat post office clerk, calling the recent influx “madness”.

Barely two miles south of Efrat, however, the comparable-sized Palestinian town of Beit Fajjar has no postal service. Local resident Yazeed Odah said he must travel 45 minutes into Bethlehem in order to retrieve mail, with the Palestinian postal service largely dysfunctional, and estimated delivery times in excess of a month.

Amazon is not the first tech company to encounter complications when operating in West Bank settlements. In 2018, home rental website Airbnb removed listings in the region following outrage from Palestinian officials and human rights groups, only to reverse that decision less than a year later after Israeli pressure mounted.

This week, the UN published a list of 112 companies it identified as having business ties with Israeli West Bank settlements that “raised particular human rights concerns”. Among those named in addition to Airbnb were TripAdvisor, Motorola and Expedia. Amazon was not included.

Diana Buttu, a former PLO spokeswoman and legal adviser in peace talks between Israel and Palestine, said Amazon’s policy is, in effect, “allowing the settlement activity to be viewed as legal when [it’s] not.”

“The issue is just how normalised the settlements have become, not just in Israeli eyes, but in international eyes,” Buttu added. “And that’s the problem, it’s that unless you begin to treat them as illegal, then it becomes so natural for them to become normalised.”

After the publication of this article, for which the FT contacted Amazon for comment several times, the company added that the exclusion of the Palestinian Territories from the shipping discount was “a logistical issue and not a sign of any other consideration”.

Noam Perry, Economic Activism Associate

American Friends Service Committee, 1730 Franklin St. Suite 201, Oakland, CA 94612


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Amazon Threatens its Workers Agitating for Climate Justice

A new report on PBS:

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon employees say the company is threatening to fire workers for publicly pushing the company to do more to combat climate change.

Amazon Employees For Climate Justice, a climate change advocacy group founded by Amazon workers, said Thursday that the company sent letters to members telling them that they could be fired if they continued to speak to the press.

“This is not the time to shoot the messengers,” said Amazon employee Maren Costa, in a prepared statement. “This is not the time to silence those who are speaking out.”

You can learn more from them directly at